I often see clients with a "rotator cuff injury". When clients tell me about it, it's often very generalized and they don't know exactly where the injury is. With a rotator cuff injury, as a massage therapist I want to be sure I am helping the injury and not causing additional trauma to the area ESPECIALLY if the injury is a tear in the tissue. If I don't know specifics about the injury I will be very conservative in my treatment of the area.
So what is the rotator cuff? It is a group of four individual muscles and not a singular structure. The four muscles are the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor.
These four individual muscles come together from the scapula (shoulder blade) to form a cuff around the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). The rotator cuff muscles lift and rotate the arm and stabilize the ball and socket joint of the shoulder.
Understanding the specifics of your injury - tear, inflammation, sprain, strain- and which muscle/tendon is affected are important steps to treating your specific injury. If you have been to the doctor, ask them specifically which muscle(s) have been affected, the severity of the injury, and understand your specific treatment recommendations.
Knowing the specifics will help you and your treatment team (physical therapist, massage therapist, occupational therapist, etc.) to give you the best possible treatment and therefore outcome.