Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Thomas Mohr


Rotator Cuff -- injuries; Rotator Cuff -- pathology


Rotator Cuff disease is one of the most common shoulder problems seen in the medical setting today. It spans all ages ranging from the young athlete who suffers from overuse syndrome to the older individual who experiences decreased function due to degenerative changes within the shoulder joint.

The chief causes of rotator cuff tears are traumatic il1iury and degenerative changes. Tears resulting from trauma usually occur from a lateral blow to the shoulder. Degenerative changes in the rotator cuff result from many factors. These factors include: decreased vascularity, age, shape of the acromion, repetitive trauma, scapular instability, and muscular weakness.

The shoulder is a complex joint and proper treatment relies on the physical therapist's knowledge of the anatomy and function of all of the structures involved in the shoulder complex. The therapist must also know how the structures work together to promote the smooth, coordinated movements necessary for normal arm motion.

This paper focuses on the causes of rotator cuff pathology with a presentation of the signs and symptoms of rotator cuff disease. Other problems of the shoulder will also be discussed and differential diagnosis of these problems will be presented followed by a discussion of shoulder rehabilitation programs for conservative and surgical treatment of rotator cuff tears.