Rotator cuff syndrome

Rotator cuff syndrome is a disease about which very little is known. It is a disease that is mainly known as an occupational disease. This syndrome can be said to occur when there is pain in the upper arm and shoulder for at least four days a week and becomes worse when the arm is bent behind the back. Pain is mainly felt in the shoulder region.

The rotator cuff syndrome

The rotator cuff, also known as the rotator cuff in Dutch, is the muscles that belong to the shoulder girdle. The shoulder girdle consists of the collarbone, scapula and raven beak bone. The rotator cuff is the muscles that surround these bones.
Rotator cuff syndrome has become increasingly common in people in recent years. It is caused by overloading the muscles in the shoulder girdle. It is a well-known phenomenon as an occupational disease, but it is also becoming increasingly common among athletes (strength training). The muscles of the rotator cuff are torn, resulting in various complaints.


In rotator cuff syndrome, the muscles are torn due to overuse, but tears in the muscles can also occur as a result of inflammation. Inflammation is often the result of overload or incorrect load. The symptoms are often unambiguous: pain in the shoulder and upper arm when the arm is placed on the back. This is noticeable for women when they want to unhook a bra behind their back. For men: pretend you are wearing a bra and undo it behind the back. With rotator cuff syndrome it is impossible to perform this action. There is a lot of pain and stiffness .
The pain increases when lying on the shoulder. The pain increases especially at night. In the morning the shoulder feels painful and stiff. There may be a decrease in strength in the arm and shoulder. Putting on or taking off a sweater overhead is painful and not possible.

The cause: a fall, strength training or overload

It is becoming increasingly common among bodybuilders/people who do strength training. This is mainly due to an incorrect training schedule. Old training schedules are often blindly adopted and perceived as correct, while it is clear that some programs actually damage the muscles. The muscles become irritated, inflamed and eventually a tear in the muscle can occur.
A fall on the shoulder can tear one of the muscles. This often involves a deep crack. Rotator cuff syndrome also occurs as an occupational disease. Employees who have to lift a lot of heavy objects above their shoulders or continuously make the same movement with their shoulders, quickly develop irritated and inflamed rotator cuff muscles, resulting in small tears. Poor posture also causes the disease. This is often seen in people who work a lot at a PC and have a very bad posture.

Treatment and recovery

It is not always easy for a doctor to diagnose rotator cuff syndrome. Sometimes it is confused with shoulder impingement, a compression in the shoulder. This is also caused by overload. In some cases, both conditions occur simultaneously.
If the muscle is partially torn, which is the case in most cases, the doctor will prescribe painkillers. With a good balance between exercise and rest, the muscle will recover naturally. Exercises are necessary to prevent the muscles from weakening. The physiotherapist will provide targeted exercises for you to do at home. Sometimes the doctor will give an injection of corticosteroid. This injection inhibits inflammation, causing the tissue to calm down and heal faster. If the muscle is completely torn or if the complaints do not disappear, keyhole surgery can be performed. The muscle is then repaired. After the operation, strength will have to be slowly built up again through physiotherapy.
To prevent rotator cuff syndrome from developing again later, the method will have to be adjusted. Consult with the employer if the complaints are caused by work, or adjust the work yourself. If the complaints are caused by sports, ask the trainer for advice. Please note, some trainers give incorrect advice out of ignorance. Unfortunately, a fall cannot always be prevented and is therefore always unexpected. In sports that involve falling (such as martial arts), it is important to learn good falling technique.