Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

Rotator cuff tendinopathy is a condition in which there is pain and weakness in the shoulder due to degeneration of the rotator cuff tendons. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that attach the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula). Rotator cuff tendinopathy is a common cause of shoulder pain, particularly in people over the age of 40.

In rotator cuff tendinopathy, the tendons of the rotator cuff become irritated, and inflamed, and can develop small tears. This can cause pain, weakness, and a decrease in the range of motion in the affected arm. The condition can be the result of degenerative changes, overuse, or acute injury to the shoulder.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

Rotator cuff tendinopathy is typically caused by a combination of factors, including:

Age-related degeneration: As people get older, the rotator cuff tendons can weaken and become more susceptible to injury and degeneration.

Overuse: Repetitive overhead arm movements, such as those seen in sports, manual labor, or certain jobs, can put stress on the rotator cuff tendons and lead to tendinopathy.

Acute injury: Sudden, forceful movements can result in rotator cuff tears, which can lead to tendinopathy if not treated properly.

Impingement: The rotator cuff tendons can become pinched between the humeral head and the acromion, causing irritation and inflammation.

Bone spurs: Bony growths can develop on the bones of the shoulder, causing irritation and impingement on the rotator cuff tendons.

Arthritis: Inflammation in the shoulder joint can cause degeneration of the rotator cuff tendons.

Poor posture: Maintaining poor posture for prolonged periods of time can place stress on the rotator cuff tendons and lead to tendinopathy.

These are some of the common causes of rotator cuff tendinopathy. It’s important to seek the evaluation and care of a healthcare professional to determine the specific cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Signs and Symptoms Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

Rotator cuff tendinopathy can cause a variety of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Pain: Pain is typically felt in the front or side of the shoulder and may extend down the arm. The pain may be dull, aching, or sharp, and may be worse at night.
  • Weakness: Weakness in the shoulder can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as reaching, lifting, and rotating the arm.
  • Decreased range of motion: The shoulder may feel stiff and have limited range of motion, especially when lifting the arm overhead.
  • Crepitus: A crackling or grating sensation may be felt in the shoulder when moving the arm.
  • Tenderness: The shoulder may be tender to the touch, particularly over the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Muscle wasting: The muscles in the shoulder may appear to be shrinking or wasting away.
  • Shoulder instability: The shoulder may feel loose or unstable as if it is about to pop out of its socket.

These symptoms may be indicative of rotator cuff tendinopathy, but a proper diagnosis can only be made by a healthcare professional. If you are experiencing shoulder pain or any of these symptoms, it is important to seek the evaluation and care of a doctor or physical therapist.

Treatment for Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

Rotator cuff tendinopathy is a condition in which the tendons of the rotator cuff muscle in the shoulder become damaged and can result in pain and limited movement. Physiotherapy is often a key component in the treatment of rotator cuff tendinopathy. The goal of physiotherapy is to reduce pain, improve the range of motion, and strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff.

Treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy typically includes the following components:

Pain Management: The physiotherapist may use various modalities to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, such as heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Specific exercises will be prescribed to improve the flexibility and strength of the rotator cuff muscles. This can help to alleviate pain and improve the function of the shoulder.

Soft Tissue Therapy: Techniques such as massage, trigger point release, and friction therapy can help to relieve pain and improve mobility in the shoulder.

Postural Education and Correction: The physiotherapist may educate the patient on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent further injury and improve overall shoulder function.

Activity Modification: The physiotherapist may make recommendations for modifying activities that may be exacerbating symptoms and causing further injury.

It is important to note that treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy will vary based on the severity of the injury and the individual’s specific needs. A physiotherapist will be able to create a personalized treatment for rotator cuff tendinopathy plan based on their assessment of the patient’s condition.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about rotator cuff tendinopathy please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Brossmann, J., & Neyret, P. (2017). Physical therapy for rotator cuff tendinopathy: a systematic review. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine

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