Rotator Cuff Strain – Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


What is a rotator cuff strain? Let me start with a definition of sorts. A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon whereas a sprain is an injury to a ligament.

A ligament is a fibrous, thick, tough tissue that connects a bone to a bone. The primary purpose of the body’s ligaments is to hold your skeleton together in normal alignment. A tendon such as a rotator cuff tendon is a tough fibrous tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.

The cuff is composed of a group of four muscles, with associated tendons. When discussing a strain therefore, we are always talking about a cuff tendon or muscle injury.

What causes a strain

Muscles are designed to stretch. The problems begin when the muscles are stretched too far, or, if they are stretched whilst in the process of contracting.

It is at this point the muscles become susceptible to a rotator cuff strain or potentially rotator cuff tears. This is a very common cause of shoulder pain rotator cuff problems.

A strain can have a chronic or an acute onset. Acute injuries have a more sudden onset such as those caused by a fall. Whereas chronic injuries will have developed over a longer period of time due to overuse.

For this reason those who are most at risk are those involved in sports or activities requiring a lot of overhead work. It is these sorts of activity that typically exercise rotator cuff muscles the most.

Strain symptoms

The main symptoms of a strain are characteristically

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruising of the affected joint

Often there is no need to consult a doctor. That is, unless any of the following symptoms apply.

  • You have severe pain and are unable to place any weight on the injured joint.
  • You cannot move the injured joint.
  • The injured area is numb
  • The injured joint is crooked or has lumps that are not visible on the uninjured joint.
  • The area over the injured joint or close to it is very tender to touch.
  • There is redness or red streaks radiating from the injury.
  • Re injure a joint that has been injured previously.