Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Physiotherapy can be used to treat rotator cuff injury.

Physiotherapy can be used to treat rotator cuff injury.
beginning of content

Rotator cuff injury

Rotator cuff injury is a common cause of shoulder pain. It is due to a strain or tear in the muscles or tendons of your shoulder. It can develop quickly, but often develops gradually over time. The injury can often be treated using therapies such as physiotherapy and medication. Surgery may be an option in severe cases.

What is a rotator cuff injury?

The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles and their tendons at your shoulder joint. They form a cuff around the head of the upper arm bone (the humerus). They help the shoulder move.

Rotator cuff injury can range from simple inflammation to tears of the muscles or tendons. It is also called rotator cuff syndrome, rotator cuff tear, rotator cuff tendonitis, and shoulder impingement syndrome.

What causes a rotator cuff injury

The main causes of rotator cuff injury are:

  • repetitive shoulder movement – from sports like basketball and jobs like painting
  • overloading of the joint by heavy lifting
  • an accident, such as a fall
  • poor posture
  • general wear and tear with age.

Rotator cuff injury symptoms

It is possible to have rotator cuff injury and not notice any symptoms.

When symptoms become noticeable they can include:

  • pain and tenderness in the shoulder
  • weakness of the shoulder
  • pain when sleeping on the affected side
  • numbness and tingling in the affected arm or hand
  • restricted shoulder movement.

Rotator cuff injury diagnosis

Many things can cause shoulder pain and your shoulder joint is complex. So diagnosing rotator cuff injury can be challenging.

Your doctor will probably ask you about your symptoms, examine you, and ask you to do specific arm movements to see if these cause any difficulty or pain. In some cases, imaging such as X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may also be done.

Rotator cuff injury treatment

Most cases of rotator cuff injury can be treated by:

  • avoiding repetitive overhead tasks and lifting away from the body
  • managing your pain using pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs and, in some cases, corticosteroid injections
  • treatment such as physiotherapy.

If you have a severe injury, surgery may be an option.

Last reviewed: November 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 4 results

Rotator cuff injury - myDr.com.au

Rotator cuff injury is usually a strain or tear of the rotator cuff - the group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place.

Read more on myDr website

Shoulder pain - myDr.com.au

Find out about the causes and treatment of shoulder pain, including frozen shoulder, rotator cuff syndrome, dislocated shoulder and arthritis.

Read more on myDr website

Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is common in our community. The good news is that with appropriate treatment pain will improve so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Corticosteroid injections - myDr.com.au

Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation, relieving pain and improving function and mobility. Find out when they are used and the risks involved.

Read more on myDr website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback