PT and Rotator Cuff Pain/Tears

October 2nd, 2013
PT and Rotator Cuff Pain/Tears

Most of us have heard the term “rotator cuff” and many people suffer from what is called rotator cuff pain. However, many people don’t actually know what that means. The term “rotator cuff” refers to a group of 4 muscles that connect the shoulder blade (scapula) to the arm bone (humerus). These four muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

The Shoulder and the Rotator Cuff

Problems start to occur when there is inflammation present in the tendons. Many times the inflammation is caused by biomechanical problems that occur in the shoulder girdle complex. If these biomechanical problems persist, fraying and tearing of the tendon can occur. The supraspinatus muscle is the muscle that is most commonly affected, but fraying and tears can also occur in the rest of the rotator cuff muscles. Of course, tears can also occur due to a traumatic incident, such as a fall.

Risk Factors

Over 40 years of age
Impingement Syndrome
Poor Posture
Muscle/Joint Tightness
Repetitive Overhead Activities
The above risk factors increase the chances that a tear will develop.


Pain in the shoulder and/or upper arm
Pain and/or weakness when trying to lift the arm
Pain and/or weakness when trying to reach
Pain lying on the injured shoulder

Modalities such as ice and heat can help to relieve pain symptoms. Physical therapy will address the biomechanical problems that led to the development of a tear, such as muscle imbalances and poor posture. Physical therapy may reduce the symptoms so that the patient may not need surgery. If surgery is needed here is and article in the Delaware County, PA health library on what to expect from the surgery.

If you think you may have injured your rotator cuff, you should be evaluated by a health care professional to determine if you need treatment.