Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises For Rehabilitation, Strengthening And Pain Relief


Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises do help sufferers recover from the pain, discomfort, and disability that any shoulder injury or disorder implies. Physical therapy rehabilitates and strengthens the shoulder to optimal performance.

However, because the rotator cuff is such a complex mechanism, it is an unfortunate fact that it takes months, sometimes few years for a shoulder to recover naturally. The daily implementation of specific exercises for the rotator cuff considerably cuts down recovery times to a fraction.

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises
Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises For Tendonitis – Bursitis – Impingement
How Tendonitis, Bursitis, And Impingement Are Related

Impingement Syndrome, Tendonitis, and Bursitis are all different aspects of the same problem, the Impingement being the condition proper, and Tendonitis and Bursitis being the root causes of it.

When the rotator cuff tendons become inflamed, we have a Tendonitis, which can be caused by repetitive movements or overuse. Because inflammations know no boundaries, the Tendonitis can spread to the adjacent area of the Bursa, a fluid-filled sack over which the tendons slide to prevent them from rubbing against the shoulder bare bones.

When the Bursa becomes inflamed we have a Bursitis. Hence Tendonitis and Bursitis are 2 different inflammations of 2 adjacent areas within the shoulder joint. The inflammation causes a narrowing of the space within the shoulder joint and difficulty and pain in performing overhead movements. The consequent clicking, snapping sensation felt at every movement gives the condition its name: Impingement Syndrome.

The usual Impingement, Tendonitis, and Bursitis treatments are again anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, ice packs, and in few cases surgery. Specific rotator cuff exercises for Shoulder Impingement, Tendonitis, Bursitis can drastically cut down recovery times from months to few weeks.

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises

What To Do Following A Tear

A torn rotator cuff occurs following a strain or an accident. It shows with pain, like theImpingement Syndrome and the Frozen Shoulder, especially at night, and starting from the lateral side of the deltoid, often going down to the elbow. However, it is typical of a rotator cuff tear to show a distinctive feeling of weakness upon holding the arm straight up or raising it over the head.

After an initial course of anti-inflammatory medication, a program of physical therapy can be started to make recovery times faster.

Tears are classified into 3 grades in order of increasing severity.

  1. Grade 1 tears involve stretching of the tissue without any tear proper,
  2. Grade 2 are partial tears of the tendons or cuff muscles
  3. Grade 3 are complete tears.

Not all muscles making up the rotator cuff may be injured at once. To find out which muscle has been torn, the physiotherapist may perform different tests aimed at the 4 rotator cuff muscles, the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis.

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A program of torn rotator cuff physical therapy help heal and strengthen the shoulder to full functionality, recovering it from a tear and also working out as a preventive measure against future injuries. Surgery can be avoided in most cases while cortisone injections, though effective, can carry heavy side effects like tissue damage. Rotator cuff exercises are the best and most effective treatment for a tear.

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises
Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises And Treatments
Different Methods Of Dealing With Shoulder Injury

A rotator cuff injury may be the result of a trauma, a repetitive stress or aging. A tear may be acute, following a fall, or chronic as when playing high exertion sports like baseball or tennis where overhead movements are constantly employed.

  • A traumatic tear is hardly preventable, but a stress-related injury may be avoided with proper warming up and correct execution, especially lifting weights overhead or abducting the arm on the side. Individuals above the age of 60 may also be prone to tears as a result of natural tissue degeneration. The cuff tendons may become more easily torn from the bone as blood supply decreases, making overall recovery times longer and a re-occurrence a possibility.


  • Symptoms almost invariably include pain.

Pain can be sudden and be shooting in the case of a large traumatic tear, going down to the elbow and with difficulty in performing overhead movements. Chronic tears from overuse present pain as a deep ache growing worse at night and a general weakness upon raising the arm side way (abduction) or in front and even inability to lift it beyond shoulder level.


  • A Shoulder Tendonitis is not an injury, to begin with, but it may also degenerate into a tear when the tendons become so inflamed as to restrict blood supply and cause the ligament tissue to weaken and tear, either partially or completely. Normal treatments available include rest, anti-inflammatory medication, ice packs, and physical therapy. Rest is usually prescribed, to begin with, but not for too long so as not to further weaken the rotator cuff.


  • Ice packs are a universal and safe method to reduce pain and swelling of the area affected, though they require repeated applications. Steroid injections and medication may be effective but need strict medical supervision for side effects and long-term dependency issues. Surgery is a drastic measure needed only for complete tears or chronic tears where physical therapy and other treatments have failed.
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  • In most instances, a rotator cuff physical therapy program can significantly reduce recovery times and generally help the healing process. Depending on the severity of the injury, the program may be started with a passive phase performed by the therapist, followed by 3 more active and strengthening phases of increasing resistance.


  • Specific Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises are probably the most important and effective treatment of a rehabilitation strategy, regardless of surgery. It is also very important when to start the rehabilitation exercises and when to switch from a phase to another under the direction of the physiotherapist and to have a professional medical diagnosis performed by a doctor, as DIY diagnosis and exercises could make the problem worse and delay recovery.

Post Surgery Rotator Cuff Exercises
Why Physical Therapy Is Essential For Recovery

It is normal procedure to wait until the physician approves a rehabilitation program to start. A program of rotator cuff physical therapy normally begins with a passive phase in which the therapist performs the movements while no resistance at all is applied by the patient in order to give time to the tendons to heal and avoid further injury.

After the passive phase, an active phase is started in which the patient uses only his/her arm weight to perform specific internal and external rotator cuff exercises. These exercises are different from common gym shoulder exercises like military presses and must be performed without resistance until the rotator cuff muscles and tendons are strong enough to enter the next phase.

The strengthening phase is aimed at recovering strength to the rotator cuff muscles increasing resistance progressively. The proper strict form is essential to re-educate the rotator cuff to perform movements and stabilize the shoulder. Resistance can be increased by means of elastic bands or weights

The last phase of further strengthening and full recovery can last up to 6 months, depending on the severity of the initial injury and personal responsiveness. Resistance is gradually stepped up under the therapist supervision. For physical therapy to be effective it is critical to know when to switch from one phase to the next. A doctor advice is very important.

Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises
Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises

Preventive Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises
How To Prevent Shoulder Injuries With Strengthening Exercises

The common problem with people training in the gym or playing dynamic sports is that their rotator cuff is not up to standard with the bigger and visible shoulder muscles, the deltoid and the trapezius.

Whether attempting to lift ever greater poundage or striking the ball faster, the four muscles of the rotator cuff are put under tremendous stress to hold the arm bone humeral head into the glenoid socket. Awkward positions and poor postures exacerbate the stress until breaking point and a tear occurs.

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Shoulder tears can affect one or more cuff muscles and come in 3 different degrees of severity. Whatever the outcome, the consequence of a torn cuff is a long period of rest with anti-inflammatory medication to start with, followed by rehabilitation to recover its functionality. All these problems could be avoided to start with, with the implementation of a rotator cuff training program to go alongside normal gym or sports routines.

The exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff are peculiar and have nothing to do with traditional military push-ups. They are basically targeted at the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis and Teres Minor with the application of rotational external and internal movements with minimal resistance to start with.

As the cuff becomes more resilient and stronger, it will provide a solid foundation to stabilize the shoulder joint and allow the strong deltoid above it to exert power at will without fear or a tear occurring. This is not only true for athletes but also for sedentary or normal people with a weak cuff prone to injury or disorders due to repetitive occupational movements.


Key Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises To Cut Down Recovery Times

If you find that you are affected by one of the disorders or injuries mentioned on this page, check out these professional rehabilitation programs. They could save you months or even years of pain and disability.

A program of rotator cuff exercises is the best and most natural solution to help the shoulder recover fast, cutting down recovery times and eventually eliminating dependency on anti-inflammatories. These exercises are different from common shoulder exercises performed in the gym, such as military presses. They consist of external and internal rotational movements and stretching exercises to be performed without resistance, at least to start with, and from the comfort of your home.

They can also be used as a strengthening protocol for the prevention of injuries and disorders, not just as a rehabilitative remedy once an injury or a disorder has already occurred. In fact, these exercises for the rotator cuff are not only useful for a rehabilitation program, but also as a conditioning program to build a solid foundation on which the shoulder joint can perform.

These Rotator Cuff Tear Physical Therapy Exercises strengthen the rotator cuff to full functionality and flexibility, recovering it from a variety of disorders or injuries such as Impingement Syndrome, Bursitis, Tendonitis, Frozen Shoulder, Torn Rotator Cuff, Dislocated Shoulder, Surgery Recovery.

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