Shoulder Injuries: The Rotator Cuff

Tennis Player and rotator cuff injury

Shoulder injuries and pain are frequent complaints we encounter at Park Sports Physical Therapy. There are many factors involved in the diagnosis of shoulder pain. A skillful clinician looks at the whole picture – your posture, the entire kinetic chain including your core and lower extremities musculature, the spinal alignment and most importantly, your shoulder blade mechanics. After all, shoulder pain is most often just a manifestation of a deeper problem.

One problem we often see concerns shoulder injuries to the Rotator Cuff.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Shoulder injuries to the Rotator cuff such as Rotator Cuff tendinitis affects the tendons and muscles that help move your shoulder joint. It is often preceded by the shoulder impingement syndrome, when the tendons of the rotator cuff get “squeezed” by the bony elements. It is a result of faulty mechanics during shoulder elevation, which leads to irritation and inflammation of the tendon and eventually to tendinitis. This condition usually occurs over time and reflects a certain athletic lifestyle or profession that requires repetitive arm and shoulder movement.
Sometimes rotator cuff tendinitis can occur without any known cause. Most people with rotator cuff tendinitis are able to regain full function of the shoulder without any pain.


The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis tend to get worse over time. Initial symptoms may be relieved with rest, but the symptoms can later become constant. Symptoms that go past the elbow usually indicate another problem.

Some symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling in the front of your shoulder and side of your arm
  • pain triggered by raising or lowering your arm
  • a clicking sound when raising your arm
  • stiffness
  • pain that causes you to wake from sleep
  • pain when reaching behind your back
  • a loss of mobility and strength in the affected arm

Rotator Cuff Tears

There are two kinds of rotator cuff tears. A partial tear is when the tendon that protects the top of your shoulder is frayed or damaged. The other is a complete tear. A complete tear goes all the way through the tendon or pulls the tendon off the bone.

Physical Therapy Treatment

If you have a shoulder injury to the rotator cuff such as rotator cuff tendinitis or a rotator cuff tears, you’re not alone. It happens to millions of people every year. It’s a common cause of shoulder pain. The right treatment can make you feel better, keep a small injury from getting worse, and help you heal. For many people, physical therapy (PT) is the answer. It may be all you need to treat an injured rotator cuff.

At Park Sports our program includes personalized exercise, monitored application of ice and heat, detailed massage from a trained specialist, and specific equipment to help return your shoulder back to its normal range of motion. Our role is not just to treat your pain. We want to help you get back to doing the things you enjoy pain free and with a new understanding of how your body functions to help reduce future injury.

According to WebMd, “one study shows that people who got PT for a rotator cuff tear did just as well as those who had surgery.”


If nonsurgical treatment isn’t successful, your doctor may recommend surgery. Most people experience full recovery after having rotator cuff surgery. We also treat many patients after rotator cuff surgery to help them recover quickly and in a way that sustains their health and the healthy future of their rotator cuff.

Please contact us for more information about Park Sports and rotator cuff injuries.

Park Sports PT is a Participating Member of the Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation Network.

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