Rotator Cuff Strain

What is It?

A rotator cuff strain is a sudden traumatic injury to one or a combination of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis muscles and or tendons. prior history of impingement syndrome may be present, and can often be difficult to diagnose. injury to the rotator cuff musculature, typically follows a traumatic incident, which is usually a good way to differentiate between tendinopathy.

to determine the extent of muscle injury a grading system exists to assist in guiding the rehabilitation process:

  • Grade 1: Minimal fibre damage, slight strength loss, minimal pain and a reduction in the range of motion
  • Grade 2: Partial tear with moderate fibre damage, increased strength loss, the tear is often palpable.
  • Grade 3: Complete rupture, possibility of surgical management, individuals may have a complete loss of strength with marked dysfunction including the arm drop sign.


  • Unaccustomed overuse of the muscle/tendon unit following extended periods of home improvements (gardening, painting), sporting activity (Tournaments with multiple rounds), weight training.
  • A single violent blow to the shoulder, particularly in the mechanisms of abduction, external rotation and extension (pulling the arm back to throw) and or adduction, internal rotation or flexion (Empty can).
  • lifting or pulling something with significant weight.
  • Falling onto and outstretched hand
  • If you have suffered a previous impingement syndrome without adequate recovery.

Signs and Symptoms

An individual may experience immediate pain at the time of the injury, depending on the severity of the injury the individual may be able to continue the activity only for the pain to come back once activity has ceased. A popping or tearing sensation may be felt at the time of the injury. There will be associated pain and weakness felt in the shoulder with possible swelling and bruising.


Early management of this condition is essential, initial reduction of the aggravating activity is important to reduce the stress on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff musculature. The following are self-management strategies, which can be adopted.

  • In the initial stages when pain and inflamation is present you may benefit from ice application and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS). initial immobilization of the shoulder joint may be necessary in grades 2 and 3.
  • Initiation of flexibility and strengthening programs for the shoulder muscles with particular focus on the rotator cuff muscles, focusing on building stability in the joint before looking at strength.
  • Evaluating any training errors, correct technique and checking use of appropriate equipment. posture education for desk based workers limit the risk of further weakness through faulty head and neck alignment.

*** Assessment of muscle damage by a qualified professional is essential to determine the extent of the injury and evaluate the best course of treatment, therapists at sports injury scotland will be able to evaluate your injury and guide you as to the best method of progression ***

What can Sports Injury Scotland do??

Correct diagnosis of a muscle injury will ensure the individual gains the most appropriate treatment strategy for their injury. management of a muscle injury will vary depending on the amount of tissue damage and also the individuals daily activities. Sports massage and mobilizations have been found to be an effective method of reducing the pain associated with rotator cuff tears, increasing the mobility at the joints and improving the muscles strength and flexibility, will enable the individual to perform the necessary strengthening exercises which are essential to ensure adequate recovery. Postural re education is essential to ensure correct movement patterns in the future. Sports Injury Scotland will provide diagnosis and treatment of any musculoskeletal injury offering advice on not only the management of pain, but direction on how to avoid recurrence.