What Is A Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a collective term given to 4 muscles around the shoulder joint. These four muscles include; supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor. They play a pivotal role in maintaining the stability of the shoulder joint by keeping the head of the arm bone in the centre of the socket during active movement. It has been estimated that 65-70% of all shoulder pain is due to rotator cuff complaints.

Types of Shoulder Pain

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear can be a tear of one or more of the 4 rotator cuff muscles. A tear can occur from a traumatic event, repeated microtrauma subsequence overloading the muscle or degeneration of the muscle tissue.

Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy and Tendonitis

A tendinopathy is an umbrella term of injury to a tendon which is the structure that connects muscle to bone. Tendinopathies usually occur as a result of repetitive overloading of the tendon over a period of time. Tendonitis is when the tendon becomes inflamed or irritated which can result in pain, tenderness, reduced range of motion and strength.


A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that provides a cushion between a bone and tissues, we have over 100 bursas all over our body. There are a 5 main bursas within the shoulder joint that can become inflamed resulting in bursitis. Bursitis occurs when there is repetitive minor trauma from overuse and can often be linked with impingement and tendonitis of the rotator cuff tendons.

Shoulder instability

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint where the humerus, the arm bone, moves inside the socket. The shoulder joint is very mobile and is able to move in all directions, because of this the rotator cuff muscles and ligaments around the shoulder play a crucial role in holding the joint in the correct position. If there is a lack of strength in the muscles or laxity in the supporting ligaments the shoulder joint can become unstable which can result in subluxation or dislocation.

Left and Right Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can occur in either left or right shoulders and can at times occur in both simultaneously. Pain can present in one shoulder versus the other depending on a variety of reasons including what side is your dominant hand, what sport you play and how you sleep at night. It is important to remember that left sided shoulder pain that presents with chest pain, jaw pain, fatigue, nausea and lightheadedness is a sign of potential cardiac issues and needs emergency medical attention.

Shoulder osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint of the body and is a result of degeneration over time. This degeneration can result in pain, loss of movement, strength and function.

Pain Between Shoulder Blades

Pain between the shoulder blades is often related to the thoracic spine which is the middle portion of your spine. It can be from muscle weakness, tightness or lack of mobility in the spine. Often pain here is linked with prolonged sitting or poor ergonomic setups that result in poor posture.

Shoulder Tip Pain

Shoulder tip pain refers to pain around the acromioclavicular joint which is where the acromion (part of the scapular) attaches to the clavicle (collarbone). Acromioclavicular joint pain is often associated with pain lifting your arm to 90 degrees and above. This joint, just like any other in the body, can become irritated resulting in loss of strength and function around the shoulder. Common conditions of the acromioclavicular joint include subacromial impingement and subacromial bursitis which refers to the irritation of the bursa that sits underneath the joint. With Physiotherapy and strengthening exercises, full range and function can be restored.

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How Did I Tear My Rotator Cuff?

Rotator cuff tears can be from a number of different causes including traumatic injury such as a fall or overstretching of the arm or shoulder joint. Tears can be a result of repetitive microtrauma that leads to overloading the muscle. Another common form of rotator cuff tears is from degeneration. Muscles can develop degenerative tears from microtrauma that occurs as we age, over time they can progress to be a larger tear.


Rotator Cuff Tear Symptoms

Rotator cuff tears can result in a number of symptoms, some including:

  • Pain localised in the shoulder
  • Pain that can refer to the neck, elbow or upper back
  • Pain with lifting your arm overhead, reaching for your seatbelt, lying on your side
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Reduced function
  • Loss of strength

Shoulder Pain Assessment

A shoulder assessment would involve a thorough subjective assessment to understand your history, the details of your pain including when it started, what might have contributed to it starting, the location of your pain, what aggravates your pain and your goals. Your PEAK Practitioner will then assess your range of motion, strength, function, palpation of muscles as well as other specific tests to assess what structures are involved in your shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain can be assessed by a PEAK Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor without you needing to see your GP first. By seeing a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor you can have an assessment performed, begin your treatment and receive an individualised exercise program from your first visit. There is good evidence to suggest that, for the majority of cases, a thorough subjective and objective assessment can provide accurate diagnosis without needing imaging. Imaging such as X-ray, MRI or ultrasound are not normally requested unless you have experienced a traumatic injury such as a fall or a sporting injury.

Shoulder Pain Relief and Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

Massage Therapy For Rotator Cuff Injury

Massage Therapy can be useful in helping with pain management and muscle tightness. Massage Therapy is a fantastic adjunct to Physiotherapy and Chiropractic services to address your pain and often achieves the best outcomes. It can be used in the early stages of your rehab to reduce your pain as well as down the track for ongoing maintenance and part of a customised prevention plan.

Dry Needling For Rotator Cuff Injury

Dry needling is a highly effective technique that can be used to help with decreasing pain, releasing trigger points and improving function. This can be performed by your PEAK Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Massage Therapists.

Physiotherapy and Chiropractic For Shoulder Pain

Your PEAK Physiotherapists and Chiropractors can assess, diagnose and treat your shoulder pain. Shoulder pain is an area where both professions are qualified to assess your complaint, treat your pain and work with you to prevent it from recurring.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

Rotator Cuff Syndrome is an umbrella term that is used when there is pain and or dysfunction occurring in the rotator cuff that impacts the function and movement of the shoulder joint.

In order to know if you have torn your rotator cuff, a thorough assessment of the shoulder is required by your PEAK Physiotherapist or Chiropractor. As previously mentioned, PEAK’s assessments and testing of your complaint is detailed and is usually what is required to determine a diagnosis without the need for any additional imaging. Imagining may be indicated when there has been a traumatic event such as a fall or a sports injury.

The healing times for a rotator cuff injury are dependent on where the injury is and how severe your specific injury is. Our goal with treatment is to assess your shoulder and provide you with an individualised prognosis. Immediate treatment is directed at decreasing your pain and increasing your function. If there is only mild irritation of the rotator cuff it may take only 2-4 weeks to resolve. If there are more chronic symptoms it may take between 6-12 weeks.

A healthy muscle usually takes 6 weeks to strengthen, if there has been an injury or chronic pain in your rotator cuff it is likely to take 10-12 weeks to strengthen. This is because the muscle is sensitive to pain and would have lost strength due to compensatory movement patterns and lack of use.

Rotator cuff tendonitis is the irritation and inflammation of a tendon. In most cases it will not directly result in a tear,however if untreated over time and with repeated stress on the muscles it can worsen and lead to a partial or completely torn tendon.

Physiotherapy can help with a torn rotator cuff. In the majority of cases physiotherapy can get extremely successful outcomes and can assist in getting you back to full function. Physiotherapists can help to manage your symptoms as well as strengthen the rotator cuff whilst it heals.

Chiropractic can help with rotator cuff pain. Chiropractors can help by utilising a number of techniques such as soft tissue massage, dry needling, movement analysis and exercise prescription. Chiropractors can also help educate you on the do’s and don’ts so that you are able to better manage your symptoms.

The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles including supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus and teres minor.

Our locations


PEAK Hawthorne opened in 2012 and was extended and renovated in 2020. You see the same team whether we see you at Hawthorne or one of our other clinics.  Hawthorne offers private treatment rooms and a spacious exercise area incorporating the latest equipment and technology, unrestricted single level access and off-street parking. We also provide HICAPS for real-time private health claiming.

Our locations

New Farm

PEAK New Farm opened in August 2019. You see the same team whether we see you at New Farm or one of our other clinics. New Farm offers private treatment rooms and a spacious exercise area incorporating the latest equipment and technology, unrestricted single level access and off-street parking. We also provide HICAPS for real-time private health claiming.


5/171 Riding Road,
Hawthorne, QLD, 4171
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Opening Hours -
6 days per week
  • Monday - Friday: 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday: 7:00 am - 1:00 pm

To make a booking outside of business hours, please use our form by clicking here.

New Farm

1/15 Lamington Street,
New Farm, QLD, 4005
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Opening Hours -
6 days per week
  • Monday - Thursday: 2:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Friday - Saturday: 7:00 am - 1:00 pm

To make a booking outside of business hours, please use our form by clicking here.