Rotator Cuff Pain

peer review

This content has been reviewed and approved by Kathy Doubleday DPT, OCS.

The “rotator cuff” is the group of 4 muscles and their tendons responsible for keeping the shoulder joint stable. Injuries to the rotator cuff are common—either from accident or trauma, or with repeated overuse of the shoulder. Risk of injury can vary, but generally increases as a person ages.

When left untreated, a rotator cuff tear can cause severe pain and a decrease in the ability to use the arm.

Rotator cuff tears are more common later in life, but also can occur in younger people. Athletes and heavy laborers are often affected. Older adults can injure the rotator cuff when they fall on or strain the shoulder.

  • Dull ache deep in the shoulder
  • Difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back
  • Accompanied by arm weakness

Conservative care is sometimes all that is needed to recover from a rotator cuff injury. Initial treatments may include:

  • Rest
  • Cold Therapy
  • Prescribed Exercises

 

Secondary treatments include:

  • Steroidal Injections
  • Physical Therapy
  • Surgery

If conservative treatments haven’t reduced your pain, your doctor might recommend a steroid injection into your shoulder joint, especially if the pain is interfering with your sleep, daily activities or physical therapy. While such shots are often temporarily helpful, they should be used sensibly, as they can contribute to weakening of the tendon and may lower the success of surgery if this is eventually needed.

Printable Rotator Cuff Exercises (pdf)

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