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Muscles of the rotator cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that act to stabilise the shoulder joint (prevent the humerus from sliding, allows for full range of motion by providing stability).

What causes a rotator cuff tear?

The rotator cuff is highly susceptible to injury due to the location & role required. A tear to the supraspinatus is the most common, followed by the subscapularis.
Tears to the rotator cuff can be caused by
  • Impingement
  • Overuse/ repetitive micro-trauma
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Tissue-based degeneration
  • Secondary to a shoulder dislocation or fracture

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain between 80-120 degrees of shoulder abduction (lifting your arm out to the side)
  • Inability to lift your arm out to the side
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Weakness with shoulder movements, particularly internal rotation

Strengthening Exercises (6+ weeks post-injury)

  • Protraction & retraction

  • Push-ups


  • Cable press


  • Cable row

  • Cuban rotation


  • Lateral raise


The above advice is general in nature, always consult your healthcare team before starting an exercise program. For a more specific & individualised exercise program, contact our Exercise Physiologists on 1300 397 497.