Conditions Treated

Rotator Cuff Tears – Partial, Full Thickness

The shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint. The rotator cuff (RC) muscles are the main dynamic stabilisers of the shoulder. The RC consist of Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. These muscles allow us to move our arm in all directions and also assist in keeping the ‘ball’ in its correct position in the socket.


The RC muscles can become injured through trauma or repetitive overuse. RC tears can range in size and can occur in any of the muscles but are most commonly found in the Supraspinatus muscle. Tears can be described as ‘partial’ or ‘full thickness’ depending on the extent of the tear. This can cause pain, weakness and loss of function.


Rotator cuff tears can occur due to injury or due to chronic degeneration.

  • Acute traumatic tears are normally the result of a fall or direct trauma.
  • Chronic tears are the result of degenerative changes that happen in our bodies over time. This can be linked with repetitive overuse of the arm.

Signs & Symptoms

For acute traumatic tears there can be bruising, swelling and sudden loss of active range of motion so you may not be able to move your arm throughout its normal range. Patients will normally report the onset of the symptoms after a specific incident, such as a fall.

Degenerative tears have a much more gradual onset so our bodies tend to develop compensatory movements with other muscles adapting to work harder. You will have pain and weakness with certain movements of the shoulder. The symptoms can progressively worsen over time.


For young patients with acute traumatic tears, early surgical consultation is normally recommended. For all degenerative tears or for older patients with traumatic tears, conservative management with physiotherapy is the recommended treatment option.

The majority of patients with RC tears improve with physiotherapy treatment and do not go on to need surgery. Physiotherapy management consists of exercises to gradually increase your range of motion, strength and function in your arm.

Melbourne Hand Therapy Can Help You

Our physiotherapists are highly skilled in assessing and treating the shoulder. The sooner you book an appointment for assessment and treatment the better. If you prolong receiving treatment, you are likely to develop compensatory movements which could result in a longer recovery time.

So don’t delay and click the link below to book an appointment with one of our upper limb physiotherapists now:


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