Rotator Cuff Injuries

Massage for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator Cuff Injuries include sprains, impingement, irritation, or tears to the muscles or tendons which connect the upper arm to the shoulder.

Because the shoulder joint has a large range of motion it is common that a rotator cuff muscle or tendon can tear through over stretching or rapid twisting of the joint. We explain the symptoms, treatment and rehabilitation to help cure your injury and prevent it recurring.

Sometimes referred to as Rotator Cuff Syndrome, these muscles and tendons also help to hold the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) in it’s socket, which helps to give the arm the best range of motion of any joint in the body.

Massage therapists, particularly Sports Therapists study the rotator cuff muscles and learn healing skills and release techniques for these muscles, to ease the pain that dysfunction can cause.

The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) whose job is to stabilize the humerus (arm bone) during all shoulder movements, which helps the muscles to move where and when needed.

A rotator cuff that functions properly is able to stabilize the shoulder so we can do everyday, normal work. An injured rotator cuff disrupts normal function, and therefore disrupts our lives.

Causes of Dysfunction
There are many reasons that these muscles can become inflamed, torn or injured apart from lifestyle.

  • Bursitis-Inflammation or irritation of the bursa sac, which is the fluid-filled sac between the shoulder and tendons
  • Tendinitis-Inflammation of the tendons
  • Tears-often due to overuse, tendons or muscles can develop tears
  • Other aspects such are poor posture, repetitive motions, falling, lifting or pulling and normal wear with age.


Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff will usually consist of sudden pain in the shoulder sometimes accompanied by a tearing feeling. This can be severe and may transmit down into the arm.

It is not uncommon to be unable to sleep on the injured shoulder and there may be signs of impingement where the tendon pinches between the ball and socket of the shoulder joint when moving the arm out over head height.

Pain can gradually get worse over time and eventually weakness in the shoulder will occur to the point where the athlete is unable to lift their arm up to the side. Overhead movements such as in racket sports become very difficult.

  • Shoulder pain, especially when lifting
  • Limited range of motion in shoulder
  • Week muscles in shoulder
  • Activities such as brushing your hair or your teeth causes shoulder pain
  • Heavy lifting causes severe shoulder pain.

Pain reduction techniques

Massage techniques for the shoulder girdle will help to increase blood circulation to the area, which also increases oxygen and nutrient flow, which will encourage healing. Get a massage as often as possible to facilitate healing.

Some shoulder injuries require surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic help and/or exercises to re-strengthen the muscles.

If the injury is quite severe and you are young and active then surgery may be indicated to repair the tear.

Recovery time for a rotator injury will vary depending on several factors. Conservative treatment has a 40-90% success rate at fixing the problem. Surgery often has good results, with some studies citing a 94% satisfaction rate with the surgery, resulting in lasting pain relief and improved function. Very extensive tears often have a poor surgical outcome, however this injury is thankfully quite rare. If you are older, it will take you longer to heal.

Rotator cuff injuries are painful, and can disrupt our lives, visit a massage therapist that is familiar with working these muscles to release their restrictions and encourage healing.