The rotator cuff is a group of muscles at the back of shoulder which helps keep the arm bone in the best position during movement.

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Rotator cuff issues can cause pain at the front or back of shoulder, down the arm, or even up into your neck. You may also experience loss of movement of the shoulder and/or weakness in your arm.

Rotator cuff tears are common. They affect 20-22% of the population, and up to 65% of people with rotator cuff tears report NO symptoms at all!

Is surgery or exercise best?

Research on partial thickness rotator cuff tears (< 75% tear of the muscle), has shown that physiotherapy is AS effective as surgery (and what a difference in cost!)

Research on full thickness rotator cuff tears has shown that physiotherapy can reduce the need for surgery by up to 75% at a 2 year review.

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Some research has suggested that surgery may only be beneficial due to the fact that it enforces rest and a period of rehabilitation.

What does physiotherapy do?

At your appointment, we will perform a thorough assessment of your shoulder, and discuss with you what we think your best treatment would be. This may involve some hands-on treatment such as dry needling, massage or strapping, before we get down to your exercise program. We may ask you to rest from certain activities that aggravate you, but don’t worry – our job is to get you back to them as soon as possible.

Isometric exercises have been shown to be effective for immediate pain relief, as well as helping to build strength, so we usually start here. ‘Isometric’ means that the muscles are used with minimal movement of the sore joint, so they should be comfortable.  

Once your pain has reduced, we start working on gradually loading the shoulder again, both with exercises and your day to day activities. We can make sure your rehab matches your activity levels and needs by asking about your goals for treatment.

If you need help with your shoulder pain, please feel free to book an appointment. If you have any more questions, we are always happy to help!

References:

Minagawa H. et al. Prevalence of symptomatic and asymptomatic rotator cuff tears in the general population: From mass-screening in one village. J Orthop. 2013 March; 10(1): 8-12

Kuhn et al. Effectiveness of Physiotherapy in treating atraumatic full thickness rotator cuff tears: A multi-center prospective cohort study. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 2013.

Kukkonen et al 2014. Treatment of non-traumatic RC tears. Bone & Joint Journal. 2014.