Shoulder injury not getting better? Could it be the Rotator Cuff?

Have you injured your shoulder?

Whether it is the result of a crash, accident or repetitive use strain, shoulder pain is a common complaint for many of our patients at Doveston Health.

Traumatic shoulder injuries often result from a direct fall onto the shoulder, onto an outstretched hand or from a fall whereby the arm is hyper-extended backwards or sideways.

Of these types of falls, many studies have concluded that the most common resulting injuries are clavicle fractures followed closely by acromioclavicular joint dislocations and rotator cuff tears (1).

Jessica Bates | Physiotherapist at Doveston Health

Acute rotator cuff injuries are frequently left undiagnosed and mistreated and can sometimes end up causing months of pain and shoulder dysfunction later down the track. It is important to seek medical treatment for shoulder injuries from physiotherapists (initially) and exercise physiologists (afterwards) earlier rather than later to increase successful treatment outcomes and be able to return to pre-injury level as fast as possible.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a term used to describe four key muscles and their tendons that work together as a synergy to move and control the ball and socket joint that is your shoulder.

The muscles help to secure the ball (arm bone) into the socket (shoulder) to stabilise the joint and allow for correct movement patterns when moving the arm.

When just one of these four muscles is damaged, it can lead to altered movement patterns, which can cause further issues and pain within the joint.

 If you are experiencing pain or difficulty with lifting your arm out to the side, rotating it outwards or lowering it from out in front, a rotator cuff issue could be present.

How do you treat it?

Treatment of this injury depends on the severity of tear, level of pain and restriction it is causing. Treatment approaches can be surgical or non-surgical in nature. Interestingly, a recent study has shown that at a five year follow up of patients with full thickness chronic rotator cuff tears, there was no difference seen in the outcomes between the two different approaches. Simply put, this means that no treatment approach was proven to be better than the other.

Allied health interventions such as Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology can provide you with this successful non-surgical treatment approach. Physiotherapy involves in depth assessment of your injury, hands on treatment progressing to Exercise Physiology which provides specific exercise therapy to strengthen weakness and return full function to your shoulder.

Stay tuned for a four-part break down of each rotator cuff muscle and it’s important role on our website blog soon. If you have any questions regarding this article or regarding treatment please visit our website at www.dovestonhealth.com.au.


1. Goldstein Y, Dolkart O, Kaufman E, Amar E, Sharfman Z.T, Rath E, Mozes G and Maman E., (2016) Bicycle-related shoulder injuries: etiology and the need for Protective gear. IMAJ, Vol 18.

(2) Sørensen AK, Bak K, Krarup AL, Thune CH, Nygaard M, Jørgensen U, Sloth C, Torp-Pedersen S., (2007). Acute rotator cuff tear: do we miss the early diagnosis? A prospective study showing a high incidence of rotator cuff tears after shoulder trauma. J Shoulder Elbow Surg; Volume 16(2):174-80

(3) Boorman RS, More KD, Hollinshead RM, Wiley JP, Mohtadi NG, Lo IKY, Brett KR. (2018).

What happens to patients when we do not repair their cuff tears? Five-year rotator cuff quality-of-life index outcomes following non-operative treatment of patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears. J Shoulder Elbow Surg; Volume 27(3): 444–448.