Rotator cuff therapy is the single most important factor affecting the treatment for rotator cuff tear injuries. No matter what type of injury you have suffered or surgery you have had performed; what you do during rehab is the key to a successful outlet.

So, just what should you expect from therapy? Well, you should expect a progressive program of exercises based upon your condition and level of healing. In other words it should get tougher as you get stronger.

Just as importantly it must be a bespoke program, not a generic one ie it must be tailor to you as an individual. The outline below is based upon a rotator cuff repair surgery rehab lasting up to six months.

Rotator cuff therapy – the early stages

In the very early stages, exercise is so important, but it must be aided and as pain free as possible. If something hurts too much stop – it is that simple. A little discomfort is to be expected but stop on pain.

Start with passive / assisted or Isometric exercises. This is to allow the rotator cuff muscles to begin working without being under any real strain.

Passive motion – Have someone else support your arm and move it gently. Do not allow any motion beyond pain free range. In this instance the muscles are moving but not actually working, so an increased range of movement can be achieved in a risk free manner. Can be utilized for movement in all planes

Isometric exercises – for example, pushing against an immovable object, such as a wall, or holding the muscles under tension. Neither the wall nor the rotator cuff muscles actually move, they are not being stretched, but they are working and there before getting a safety first work out.

The middle bit

Therapy / rehab can a long process and it can be boring. This is the point when so many people give up or stop taking things seriously. Please, do not give up your rotator cuff remedial work now; this is such a vital time.

The middle bit consists of slowly increasing the number of exercises you do. Increasing the number of repetitions (ie 8 – 10 – 12) and sets (ie 1×8, 2×8, 3×8, 1×10 …..). At the same time very gradually build up the resistance. In other words make the muscles work harder.

Try resistance bands to slowly and gently increase the strength and durability of the muscles. Elastic based exercises for injured rotator cuff muscles are universally accepted as a vital part of any recovery protocol. The bands are particularly good because they hold the muscle under tension throughout the whole plane of movement.

You may also be ready to add some weights. Nothing too heavy, just simple hand held weights will increase the work the muscles are doing. The cuff muscles are small so start with nothing more than 1lb and an absolute maximum of 5lb.


Strengthening is the final phase. This should include not only the rotator cuff muscles, but also the muscles that surround the shoulder. The shoulder works most successfully when there is a balance between all of the separate components. By simply strengthening the cuff you can throw everything out of balance. This could lead to other problems developing.

Slowly increasing the weights used and / or the number of reps / sets will aid in strengthening. You will be able to feel the improvement by now and should be, pretty much, back to normal. The importance of strengthening is to ensure there is no recurrence injury in the future.

This is just an outline of what you can expect. Join me here to learn more about rotator cuff therapy