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Weak or dysfunctional rotator cuff muscles can be the cause of shoulder pain:

Our shoulders are quite a complex joint. There are over 20 muscles throughout our upper body that have a significant influence on the biomechanics of our shoulders, and there can be many reasons as to why people may experience pain in their shoulders.

If you do experience pain its very important that you get to the root cause of why its happening because if this isn’t fixed then the pain will just keep coming back again and again. Focusing on symptoms and treating symptoms will give you relief, however once you stop treating the symptom the underlying issue will still be present. This just does not make sense to me. Short term relief will not fix the problem, we have to get to the root cause as this brings long term success.

One common cause of shoulder pain can be that the actual glenohumeral joint (ball and socket) itself is not functioning optimally due to the lack of proper rotator cuff function. The rotator cuff consists of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus and teres minor). Ideally these muscles should work cooperatively to maintain good positioning of the head of our humorous bone (upper arm) in the glenoid (shoulder socket).

The rotator cuff muscles should be working to maintain this optimal relationship within the glenohumeral joint throughout all of the movements our shoulders perform. When they are not doing their job correctly issues and pain can start to arise. Think of a ball and socket joint where the ball doesn’t consistently sit in the socket and rather is able to move around into different positions.

The shoulder complex has many structures sitting very tightly around the glenohumeral joint (various tendons, muscles, ligaments and bursas). When the humeral head (ball) is not stable and is moving around many of these structures can be put in compromised positions and have too much stress placed on them causing inflammation, pain and potentially injury.

When this is the case it’s essential to get the rotator cuff functioning properly again. As mentioned earlier - all rotator cuff muscles should work cooperatively together to create optimal function. Problems can also arise when there is imbalance within the rotator cuff muscles. For example - if the external rotators are short and tight and the internal rotators are long and weak, the humeral head can be pushed anteriorly (forwards) in the joint putting excess pressure on structures like the biceps tendon or the subacromial bursa. Most people typically just go for strengthening the external rotators and hoping for the best which would certainly not work is the previous scenario. What we need to do is identify what is weak or where the missing link is and then create a specific approach. Ultimately it’s about getting the 4 rotator cuff muscles working together with optimal mobility and strength in all directions.

Here is both an internal rotation exercise and an external rotation exercise that will help really start to engage the rotator cuff muscles. These exercises are both performed with 90 degrees of shoulder abduction and because of this they will also engage the supraspinatus muscle which assists in creating good joint function when we lift our arm out to the side.

Give these two exercises a try:

I hope this has helped! If not checkout my shoulder pain page which explains the top 12 reasons people get shoulder pain and the solutions to these problems:

If you want some assistance with this or would like to get rid of your pain for good - you can book in for a FREE online assessment!

Have an awesome day,


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