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Rotator Cuff Tears – All you need to know

We continuously update this article so that we can provide you with the most up-to-date information possible. As it continues to grow, we’ve provided a Table of Contents below so you can quickly access the information relevant to your questions on rotator cuff tears, their management and rehabilitation.

Table of Contents

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that attach the shoulder blade (scapula) to the upper arm bone (humerus). They assist in controlling and stabilising movement of the shoulder. You can think of them a little like the partner in a tug of war e.g. as the big muscles on the front of your shoulder pull your arm forward, the rotator cuff at the back opposes that motion a little to help keep your upper arm in it’s socket.

The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

Muscles of the rotator cuff that can have a tear

The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

What are the most common injuries of the rotator cuff?

Rotator cuff injuries can range from mild strains to more severe tears as well as other conditions involving the tendons that join the muscles to the bone. Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury may include a combination of deep aching or sharp shooting pain, weakness, and reduced range of motion in the shoulder. Treatment for a rotator cuff injury would usually include an initial bout of conservative management & rehabilitation from an experienced physiotherapist. If, after a reasonable amount of time and effort, conservative management does not have the desired effect, a surgical consult may be an option.

Should I see a physiotherapist for a rotator cuff injury?

It is generally a good idea to see a physiotherapist for a rotator cuff injury. Physiotherapists are trained to help individuals with a variety of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions, including rotator cuff injuries. They can help diagnose your specific injury, manage pain and swelling, improve range of motion, and strengthen the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff.


Here at KC Health Services, our Initial Physiotherapy appointments are 40 minutes in length allowing us to thoroughly assess your injury and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs. This may include a small amount of manual therapy, movement strategies, exercises to improve flexibility and strength and possibly modalities such as heat or ice to help manage pain and swelling.


Physiotherapy can be an important part of your recovery from a rotator cuff injury and can help you return to your normal activities as soon as possible. It is important to follow your physiotherapist’s treatment plan and to communicate any concerns or changes in your symptoms to ensure that we can effectively monitor and modify your treatment plan to be as effective as possible.

How to pick the best physiotherapist for a rotator cuff injury?

Here are some tips for selecting a physiotherapist for a rotator cuff injury:

  • Look for a physiotherapist with experience treating rotator cuff injuries: It is important to choose a physiotherapist who has experience treating rotator cuff injuries and is familiar with the specific needs and challenges of these injuries.
  • Consider the physiotherapist’s qualifications: Make sure the physiotherapist you choose is qualified and registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA). You can search the register at this link.
  • Look for a physiotherapist who is a good fit for you: It is important to choose a physiotherapist who you feel comfortable with and who is able to explain things in a way that you understand. Look for someone who is patient, compassionate, and who takes the time to listen to your concerns and answer your questions. Here at KC Health Services we specialise in working with people who value their health and want their rotator cuff rehab to enable them to return to active hobbies or sport.
  • Consider location and availability: Choose a physiotherapist who is convenient to your home or work and who has appointment times that are convenient for you. This is important as consistency through-out your entire treatment plan is important.
  • Ask for recommendations: You can ask your primary care doctor or other healthcare providers for recommendations, or ask friends, family, or colleagues if they have any experience with physiotherapists in your area. You can also check online reviews or ratings to get a sense of the quality of care provided by different physiotherapists.

What are the top 4 exercises for rotator cuff rehabilitation?

Here are four exercises that can be helpful for rotator cuff rehabilitation:


Static contractions – North, South, East, West

With your elbow by your side and bent at 90 degrees…

  • place your palm against the frame of a door and push inwards for 10 seconds (West)
  • Then put the back of your hand against the frame and push outwards for 10 seconds (East)
  • Make a fist and place your hand under the dining table and pull upwards for 10 seconds (North)
  • Place your hand on top of the table and push downwards for 10 seconds (South)


Scapular retraction

Lying on your bed, squeeze your shoulder blades back into the bed imagining you’re trying to pinch a pencil between them. Hold for 10 seconds and relax.


External rotation with a band (elbow supported)

Sit in a chair with a table alongside you and rest your elbow on the table either in-line with, or slightly in front of your shoulder. From there you want to keep your elbow at 90 degrees rotate your upper arm so that your hand raises up off the table. Only go as high as you can without too much pain. Then slowly lower back down. For added weight you can hold a book or can of food.


Single arm Row

In a forward bent position, hold a weight in your hand and pull your elbow up to be in line with your body. It is important the squeeze your shoulder blade back at the same time. Hold for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.


It is important to consult with a healthcare provider or physiotherapist before starting any exercise program for a rotator cuff injury. They can help you determine the appropriate exercises and progression for your specific needs and ensure that you are performing the exercises correctly to avoid further injury.

Do normal gym exercises help strengthen the rotator cuff?

Many gym exercises can help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve overall shoulder stability and mobility. This is because the rotator cuff works in conjunction with all the other major muscles around your chest, back and shoulders to provide stability to the shoulder joint during all shoulder movements. Some examples of exercises that may be helpful for rotator cuff rehabilitation include:


  • Shoulder press
  • Lateral raise
  • Reverse fly
  • Push-ups
  • Bent over Rows


Please note that every injury (and person) is different, so exercises that work for one may work for another.