Rotator Cuff Injury - The Basics and Tips

The rotator cuff is the main stabilizer of the shoulder joint of the shoulder and it allows the arm to raise and rotate, hence the name. The four main muscles that make of the rotator cuff shown below:

                                              Posterior                           Anterior

The infraspinatus and teres minor act as external rotators of the arm, while the subscapularus acts as internal rotator. The teres minor is also a weak adductorof the shoulder, while the supraspinatus acts as a shoulder abductor.

The majority of rotator cuff injuries are repetitive strain injuries that occur gradually, although some injuries occur because of a trauma such as a fall or accident. Rotator cuff injuries usually fall into one of two categories:

1.     Rotator Cuff Tendonitis – inflammation of the tendons of one or more of the above muscles

2.     Rotator Cuff Tear – tearing of one of the tendons of one or more of the above muscles 

The main signs of a rotator cuff injury are shoulder pain and weakness and this is aggravated when lifting objects above one’s shoulders/head. Poor posture can also put you at risk for developing a rotator cuff injury because as you slouch forward you place undue stress on the shoulder joint.

Tips to Prevent Rotator Cuff Injuries

While you cannot prevent trauma, there are things you can do to lower the risk of developing a rotator cuff injury:
  1. Exercise your rotator cuff. This will strengthen the involved muscles and help to better stabilize the shoulder joint.
  2. Avoid lifting heavy objects about your head. The safest level for lifting is between your waist (at your belt) and your chest. If lifting is to be done above the shoulders then ask for assistance or use a stool.     
  3. Take Breaks when your shoulders/arms feel weak or tired. Remember, most rotator cuff injuries are repetitive stress injuries and are caused by overuse. When you’re muscles fell weak and tired they are unable to stabilize your shoulder joint properly, increasing your risk for injury. 
  4. Listen to your parent’s advice and stand up straight. Your shoulders should be relaxed, back, and down. Avoid slouch forward.    


  1. How's it goin'? An old gip here from the Rock also. I've been through all kinds of torturous trainng lately and my right shoulder is really bothering me. Mostly during the motion of taking off a tee shirt. I get a pain from my the outer part of my shoulder up to my neck. I've had specialists look at it but so far they just want me on physio at 100 bucks a pop. Any ideas?

  2. Hi Doug. Do any other movements cause pain, what part of the taking of a tee shirt motion hurts, and is the pain sharp? How long have you been having the issue? Without doing an assessment I can't really give you a great deal of advice - and I'd probably suggest myself that you'd see a physio. If the pain is radiating from the neck it could be a numer of things from derangement of a cervical vertebra to shoulder impingement.