Rotator Cuff

Injuries and Conditions

Rotator Cuff Problems

The ‘rotator cuff’ is a group of muscles which act to stabilise and move the most mobile joint in the human body – the shoulder.  The shoulder is as amazing as it is vulnerable.  Rotator cuff problems can cause pain in the shoulder, neck and upper back.

Shoulder injuries are incredibly common in some sporting environments – such as in contact sports (rugby and American football), as well as in non contact sports where falls onto the shoulder can result in shoulder injury (football, Ultimate, volleyball).

The most common causes of rotator cuff injuries includes:


  • repetitive lifting overhead
  • overhead throwing sports
  • swinging sports
  • contact sports/collisions
  • falls and direct trauma

Rotator cuff problems are notoriously difficult to identify with specificity.

Problems with rotator cuff tendons are common and are found between 14% in the general population – and in upwards of 50% of athletes. The tricky thing about rotator cuff problems is that there is no direct relationship between tendon damage and pain – people can have pain and little tendon damage.  And people can have full tears of the rotator cuff muscles and zero pain.  This is especially the case in people over the age of 50, where tears are common and found ‘incidentally’.

This is why experience is important. Pain is a multifactorial problem.  Just because a tendon has a little bit of damage doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want to do – pain control and rehabilitation is what is critical to getting you back to doing what you want to do.  Tennis, pitching, picking up kids.  Real life is what matters most – to you, and according to the evidence.

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