What is the Rotator Cuff? - Thrive Now Physiotherapy

What is the Rotator Cuff?

What is the Rotator Cuff ?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that attach to the ball of the shoulder (head of the humerus). The muscles that make up the rotator cuff include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. The main purpose of this area is to rotate, raise, and provide stability to the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff MusclesRotator Cuff Muscles close-up






People that have a rotator cuff strain often feel pain when raising the arm or trying to rotate the arm and reach behind their back. Although the pain manifests itself in a similar way, there are three degrees of strain that can occur in a rotator cuff injury. A 1st degree strain occurs when there is mild overstretching of the muscle. A 2nd degree strain occurs when there is moderate overstretching of the muscle and some tearing of the fibers. A 3rd degree strain occurs when there is severe tearing and/or rupture of the muscle or tendon. The degree of strain present in the injury changes the type and length of rehab for a shoulder injury.

Most surgery for a torn rotator cuff is minimally invasive and can be done with a camera and small instruments through incisions in the shoulder. Surgery gets more significant when a total shoulder replacement is necessary.

It is important to have a strong group of supporting muscles prior to surgery/injury to not only speed up recovery, but also to stabilize the shoulder and prevent injury. Here are some exercises and stretches that will help you strengthen these muscles:


Shoulder External Rotation :

Shoulder external rotation exercise start Shoulder external rotation exercise end


Shoulder Abduction :

Shoulder abduction exercise start


External Rotation stretch :

Shoulder external rotation exercise start Shoulder external rotation exercise end The example exercises/stretches in this program are intended for individuals that have not had surgery or current rotator cuff injuries. Post-operative patients and patients with current injuries should consult with a physiotherapist for specific exercises that will help them with rehabilitation.


Written By:

Patrick JadanPatrick Jadan | Thrive Now Physio

Registered Physiotherapist, Co-Owner of Thrive Now Physiotherapy


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