Rotator Cuff Muscles and Shoulder Pain

By Adelaide Women's Physio | October 12, 2016

Shoulder pain is a common condition often presenting for physiotherapy assessment and treatment. Shoulder rotator cuff injuries are a very common cause of shoulder pain, which may include the following:

Why do we need Rotator Cuff Muscles?

Four small muscles make up the rotator cuff. These are the supraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor, and infraspinatus.

A principle action of these muscles is to provide shoulder rotation to the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint).

The four muscles form a cuff around the ball part of the shoulder joint (head of the humerus).

The rotator cuff muscle function is to stabilise the ball in the shallow socket (glenoid fossa of the scapula/shoulder blade) by providing support and control to glenohumeral joint movement. They assist in keeping the ball in a central position in the glenoid.


What are Rotator Cuff Syndrome Symptoms?

Specific symptoms can occur with a particular rotator cuff injury listed earlier. However, the following signs and symptoms are common with rotator cuff muscle issues:

  • Shoulder pain lying on your unhappy shoulder
  • Arc of pain felt at the shoulder and maybe into the upper arm when lifting your arm overhead
  • A sense of shoulder weakness or heaviness when trying to arm reach or lift
  • Shoulder pain when placing your hand behind your head (brushing hair, folding shirt collar down)
  • Clicking in shoulder when arm lifting
  • Shoulder pain when reaching to children seated in back car seat or when putting on a seat belt
  • Shoulder pain putting arm into jacket or coat sleeve

How to Diagnose a Rotator Cuff Injury?

Your physiotherapist or doctor will listen to the history of your shoulder pain and then specific clinical tests are required to highlight the diagnosis.

If required a diagnostic ultrasound may be need to confirm a specific rotator cuff injury.

How to Treat a Rotator Cuff Injury?

There are many different ways of treating shoulder pain related to rotator cuff muscle issues. Our physiotherapists focus on firstly reducing pain and then restoring function to the shoulder joint. This means arm movement and shoulder blade (scapula) movement required specific training when the time is appropriate.

Posture correction of the shoulder, neck, scapula and thorax are very important. Neck treatment may also be required

Daily exercise to strengthen rotator cuff muscles is vital, as shoulder joint stability with arm movement is necessary to prevent re occurrence. Tailoring the exercise program to your individual requirements in the home, work or sport setting is essential.

For further information on your shoulder pain or rotator cuff injury please phone Physiotherapy for Women on 8443 3355.