The most common cause of shoulder pain is pathology to the rotator cuff.   The shoulder is a ball and socket joint with the freedom to provide a large degree of mobility.  Think of how many directions your shoulder allows you to move your arm and compare that to your elbow or knee joints.  This ample degree of mobility requires a dynamic system to provide stability: the rotator cuff.

Below I will share some information about the rotator cuff, some common treatments, and if you get to the bottom you’ll find 4 amazing exercises to help you treat your rotator cuff injury as well.

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The rotator cuff refers to a group of 4 shoulder muscles and their tendons:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis

These 4 muscles attach from the shoulder blade (scapula) to the arm bone (humerus).  They help keep the ball stabilized in the socket as well as assist with rotating the shoulder.


Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the shoulder or arm
  • Difficulty raising the arm away from the body
  • Difficulty reaching behind your back
  • Difficulty putting your arm through a sleeve
  • Difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep


Common causes of injury to your rotator cuff include:

  • Trauma
  • Degenerative Changes
  • Repetitive use
  • Overhead work
  • Posture

Often in the absence of clear trauma to the shoulder it is difficult to understand what caused the problem in the first place.  The true cause of your pain may be related to a mechanical issue in another area.  I commonly treat concurrent issues in neck, mid back, shoulder blades, as well as look at potential ergonomic issues (see How To Set Up An Ergonomically Friendly Workspace)


Generally treatment for a non-surgical rotator cuff issues is focused on:

These different phases of treatment may overlap one on another, and some may be more relevant to your specific issue than others.  Self management at home for each of the phases will also be important.  You will likely get exercises and recommendations to follow at home.

Here are 4 amazing exercises to help  treat your rotator cuff pain:


1) Sidelying Shoulder External Rotation with Dumbbell

2) Sidelying Shoulder Internal Rotation Stretch

3) Bent and Straight Arm Rows

4) Pectoralis Major & Minor Stretch

As mentioned, some rotator cuff injuries require surgical management. The best place to start is with a proper diagnosis from your physician or physiotherapist.  This information should help get you started.

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