Rotator cuff pain

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that help control the movement of the shoulder's ball and socket joint. If this control is impaired the muscles can become stressed or compressed between two bones, causing pain in the shoulder or upper arm, usually when lifting the arm, lying on it or using the weakened sore muscles.

When your work and/or hobbies require putting hands above shoulder height you may develop rotator cuff problems.  Although a shoulder injury, repetitive movements may cause the condition to develop.  These problems can be age related and may be something that develops as you age.

What happens to cause the pain?

In most cases the muscles become painful without any serious damage and respond to self management advice, but in some cases the tissues become inflamed and may show evidence of degeneration or develop a tear.

What are the symptoms?

Pain in the shoulder or upper arm, usually when lifting the arm, lying on it or using the weakened sore muscles.

How can I resolve the pain?

Relative rest from activities that aggravate the pain and symptoms

Pain relief as advised by your health professional, pharmacist or doctor

Gentle exercises to stop the shoulder getting stiff and to rehabilitate the muscles

What should I do if it doesn’t improve or the symptoms are very severe?

Contact your doctor who provide you with any necessary pain relief and refer you to physiotherapy where you will recieve advice on posture, maintaining movement and increasing strength.

You may require investigations such as X-ray or ultrasound

You may require a steroid injection or ultrasound guided injection

You may require surgery. In this scenario your health professional will guide you through the clinical decision making process. Your case may be reviewed by a consultant before the referral is made to ensure all avenues of treatment have been considered.

Avoidance and prevention of reoccurrence

Avoid excessive unusual activities with your hands above shoulder height, consider breaking tasks such as curtain hanging or decorating into short bite size periods of time

If you exercise, try and balance your programme to include strength work for all muscle groups

Take a break from heavy or repetitive shoulder movements/lifting