Physiotherapy for Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tear

The rotator cuff is a term used to describe a group of muscles which act to stabilise the shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles cross the shoulder joint to act as a compressive cuff to bring the shoulder joint into contact whenever the shoulder is moving. The 4 muscles which make up the rotator cuff are the: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and tere’s minor.

Rotator cuff tears are very common injuries seen in physiotherapy. Rotator cuff tear is simply put, a tear to one of the 4 rotator cuff muscle in the shoulder.  Studies show that the likelihood of having a rotator cuff tear increases exponentially after the age of 50 years.

The tear can result in one of two ways:

  • Repetitive microtrauma – occurs from constant use of the muscles giving them little time to recover. This is often seen sporting environments

  • Trauma – occurs from a large enough force on the shoulder which cannot be sustained by the rotator cuff muscles in their role as stabilisers. This are commonly seen from a fall or lifting a heavy load.

Although some rotator cuff tears are asymptomatic, meaning there is no pain as a result of the tear, most patients will complain of a deep ache in the shoulder which is made worse by shoulder elevation.  Shoulder weakness when lifting your hand above your head or pain into the arm are also common symptoms associated with rotator cuff tears.

Treatment of rotator cuff tears is collaborative treatment approach where you and your physiotherapist will work closely together in the rehabilitation process to get the best outcomes.  This will usually involve pain management strategies early such as ice, massage, dry needling and taping. As pain becomes less of an issue, the focus quickly switches to function – where you will be given a targeted exercise program along with more intensive hands on manual therapy to correct any dysfunctional movement patterns around the shoulder.

Rebound Health Physiotherapy is based in Brookvale, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.