Will Physiotherapy Really Work For Rotator Cuff Injuries?

One of the most common types of shoulder injuries is ‘Rotator Cuff Syndrome’. The shoulder joint is known as a ‘ball and socket’ joint. It can be quite unstable. It is controlled a group of muscles (4 to be exact) that are referred to as ‘the Rotator Cuff’.These 4 muscles along with the tendons are very vulnerable to tears of the Rotator Cuff. They are also susceptible to calcific tendonitis (this is where bone forms within the tendon of the rotator cuff), and also shoulder bursitis (this is an inflamed bursa), and can often require surgery to repair.

The rotator cuff muscles are what hold the arm onto the shoulder blade. Most of the rotator cuff tendons can be found hidden underneath the bony spot on the shoulder. This is known as ‘acromion’.


The tendons of a rotator cuff are shielded from common bumps and knocks from the bones. They are also shielded and protected ligaments. There is a lubricating sack (subacromial bursa) that is between the bony arch and the tendons. This sack also helps to protect rotator cuff tendons from direct contact with bone and deliver a smooth surface that those tendons can glide over.

With that said, all of this protection is still vulnerable to injury. It could be the tendons, muscles, bones, bursa, or ligaments. When the tendons become trapped and compressed due to shoulder movements, it’s known as ‘Rotator Cuff Impingement Syndrome’. Injury can occur to the bursa and tendons and the result is pain during shoulder movement.

Shoulder Pain — Karen Physiotherapy Clinic


A sports doctor or physiotherapist can perform some clinical tests and add that information in with your medical history to get a good diagnosis. One of the most accurate ways of detecting a rotator cuff problem is to use a ‘diagnostic ultrasound’. MRIs can show rotator cuff injuries but also have a reputation for missing them. A common x-ray holds very little value in these matters.


There are many symptoms that can be experienced but here are a few examples –

  1. Pain in the shoulder while resting
  1. Muscle pain or weakness when reaching or lifting
  1. Pain or clicking when the arm is overhead
  1. Pain when fastening a seat belt
  1. Pain in the shoulder that extends from the top of the should down to the elbow

and more. It’s always wise to get checked out to confirm if the pain is indeed from a Rotator Cuff injury if you there are any suspicions at all.

Again, the shoulder joint is quite unstable and vulnerable to injury. The reason is because it needs to move through a broad range of motion. The Rotator Cuff is extremely critical to arm motion.Two very good reasons for practicing shoulder exercises on a regular basis are for strength and coordination along with flexibility. The shoulder needs to have strong dynamic control. It’s necessary to strengthen the Rotator Cuff and the Scapular Stabilizers.

Exercising the shoulder is crucial for allowing the proper shoulder movement. Injury can sometimes cause the muscle groups in the shoulder to be overworked and tight. They may even form knots and shoulder movement can become very restricted.

In the same manner, although some of the muscles may tighten, some others can weaken becoming elongated. These muscles should not be stretched any further. When this happens it is time to see a physiotherapist for a diagnosis.Physiotherapy can ensure that any and all shoulder needs will be addressed in the best possible way.

For more information visit Physio Cambridge