What is a rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint comprising of:

  • The supraspinatus
  • The infraspinatus
  • The teres minor
  • The subscapularis

They work together to keep the shoulder stable, rotate the arm and to lift the arm above the head. The rotator cuff works with the ligaments that connect the bones in your shoulder together, to help keep the shoulder joint in its socket.  A capsule that covers your shoulder joint also helps keep it in place.

Types of rotator cuff injury.

There are a number of conditions that can affect your rotator cuff. The main ones are listed below.

  • Rotator cuff tear.

This is when one or more of the muscles and tendons that make up your rotator cuff tear. You can have a partial tear or a full-thickness tear. Tears can develop after an injury or if you dislocate your shoulder. Small tears can also develop in the tendon after general wear and tear over a long period of time.

  • Tendinopathy.

This is when you have pain in and around the tendons of your shoulder because they are no longer able to repair themselves properly. It’s usually because of wear and tear of your rotator cuff over time.

Risk Factors:

The following factors may increase your risk of having this type of  injury:

  • Age – As you get older, your risk of a rotator cuff injury increases.  Tears are most common in people older than 60.
  • Construction jobs – Occupations such as carpentry or house painting require repetitive arm motions, often overhead, that can damage the rotator cuff over time.
  • Family history – There may be a genetic component involved with these type of injuries as they appear to occur more commonly in certain families.
  • Sport – This includes activities such as throwing, lifting weights and swimming front crawl.


The main symptom of a rotator cuff injury is pain at the top and side of your shoulder. The pain can be a dull general ache, or it can feel severe and sudden if you tear your rotator cuff in an accident.

Shoulder pain often gets worse if you’re doing something where your arm is above your head. You may also find that the pain is worse at night, especially if you sleep on the injured shoulder. In this case, it can affect your sleep and make you feel tired.

Other symptoms include:

  • a feeling of weakness when you lift or move your arm from the shoulder
  • inability to move your shoulder fully
  • a clicking or grating sound when you move your shoulder

Without treatment, rotator cuff problems may lead to permanent loss of motion or weakness, and may result in progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint. Although resting your shoulder is necessary for your recovery, keeping your shoulder immobilized for a prolonged time can cause the connective tissue enclosing the joint to become thickened and tight (frozen shoulder).

If you have any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your Chiropractor for treatment and advice.

Should you require any further information or would like to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us on: or