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Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint. They work together to keep your shoulder stable and in its socket.
The best treatment for you will depend on the type of injury you have, how severe it is, your age and how active you are. For some people, a period of rest followed by an exercise programme to get the strength back in your shoulder is enough. For others, surgery may be a better option. See our Treatment section for more information.
It depends on how severe your injury is and what treatment you have. Many people recover well within six weeks of physiotherapy. If you need surgery, it can take six months or more to fully recover. You can help aid your recovery by doing any exercises or stretches you’re advised to do by your physiotherapist.
The main symptom of a rotator cuff injury is pain at the top and side of your shoulder. The pain may be a dull ache, or more severe and sudden if you tear your rotator cuff. See our Symptoms section for more information.
Rotator cuff injuries are the most common cause of shoulder pain. There are lots of other causes of shoulder pain. These include frozen shoulder, arthritis and other conditions that affect your bones or joints.
The symptoms of these conditions can sometimes overlap, so it’s important to get medical advice to make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment.
No, but the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury and frozen shoulder can be similar. Both conditions can cause pain in your shoulder and restrict your movement. But there are some subtle differences. A doctor or physiotherapist will be able to assess your shoulder to diagnose your condition.
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This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.
Any information about a treatment or procedure is generic, and does not necessarily describe that treatment or procedure as delivered by Bupa or its associated providers.
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- Rotator cuff injury. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last reviewed 4 September 2021
- Shoulder pain. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised April 2017
- Rotator cuff injury/subacromial bursitis. MSD Manual. www.msdmanuals.com, last full review/revision January 2020
- Shoulder pain. Patient. patient.info, last edited 18 October 2021
- Rotator cuff pathology. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated 24 February 2020
- Tendinopathy. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last reviewed 4 September 2021
- Find a physio. Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. www.csp.org.uk, last reviewed 18 March 2021
- Personal communication, Mr Damian McClelland, Trauma and Orthopaedic Consultant, and Clinical Director for Musculoskeletal Services at Bupa, 7 November 2021
- Cho CH, Song KS, Min BW, et al. Anterolateral approach for mini-open rotator cuff repair. Int Orthop 2012; 36(1): 95–100. doi:10.1007/s00264-011-1305-8