What is a rotator cuff injury?

Rotator Cuff Injury Ealing Osteopath Osteopathy West London

You may often hear osteopaths and other manual therapists mentioning the “rotator cuff muscles” when explaining shoulder pain. However patients are often left confused about what this actually means. In a nutshell, a rotator cuff injury is an injury affecting one of the four muscles that act to stabilise and control the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Injury Ealing Osteopath Osteopathy West London


The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint and enable its function. 

The rotator cuff muscles, Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Subscapularis and Teres Minor, are primarily involved in rotational movements of the shoulder and are involved in any task that requires movement from the hand, arm or shoulder. The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body and sacrifices stability for mobility, thus making it prone to injury.

Rotator cuff injuries can be split into two broad categories:
1. Tendonitis

This is where there is microscopic injury to the part of the muscle that attaches to the bone and results from excessive overhead activities, lifting or pushing with outstretched arms. The range of motion is usually decreased or painful in one or two directions of movement. Tendonitis may also be a result of degenerative changes, which can result from previous trauma, injury or natural degenerative changes. It can also be genetic.

2. Tears

This can be grouped into two types. A partial tear or a complete tear. The partial tear is where the muscle is torn but still in one piece. Whereas, a complete tear is when the tissue is in two pieces. This can be the result of an impactful injury such as a fall, a blow to the shoulder or a sudden quick movement. These injuries can also be predisposed by already compromised muscles due to tendonitis or degenerative change.

Risk factors:
  • Previous injury to the shoulder
  • Genetics
  • Advanced age
  • Dominant arm use
  • Overhead activities
    How can manual therapy help?

    Osteopathy is a holistic form of manual therapy and aims to improve range of motion in joints and muscle function, as well as improving the tissue health by encouraging optimal fluid health. Osteopaths take into consideration general health and lifestyle factors, thus you may be given specific advice relating to diet, exercise and daily lifestyle habits.

    A large part of the treatment is the rehabilitation of the muscles and shoulder joint itself with direct treatment and rehabilitative exercise plans tailored for the individual patient. A key focus of treatment is about rebuilding strength to prevent further injury. In addition, the neck and back will likely be treated, as often they are a contributing factor.

    Research suggests that manual therapy for the shoulder can also be combined with dry needling (Western form of acupuncture). This involves an acupuncture needle being placed into the muscle to reduce muscle pain, decrease stiffness of the joint and increase range of motion.


    If you’d like to speak to a member of our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 0208 088 0614, alternatively you can book a FREE consultation with our at osteopathywestlondon.com/booknow


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