Rotator Cuff Strain

Rock Rehab Protocol

The Rotator Cuff Strain “Rock Rehab Protocol” is a step-by-step rehabilitation and injury prevention plan designed specifically for rock climbers who have pain in the back and sides of their shoulders. The goal of the four-phase process is to take you from the pain, inflammation and tissue overload stage to gain full mobility, strength and eventually pain-free climbing movement.

  • How to get out of pain
  • How to unload tissue with tape
  • How to strengthen the area
  • How to avoid injury again

Signs and Symptoms

  • Dull ache in the back or side of the shoulder
  • Discomfort lifting the arm, especailly out to the side.


The shoulder is made up of four rotator cuff muscles. These muscles connect the shoulder blade to the arm bone. The rotator cuff muscles act together as a unit to control shoulder motion. The rotator cuff is weaker than the large muscles that attach the shoulder blade bone to the spine. When you climb with poor posture and pull excessively with your arms instead of climbing with your shoulder blades engaged, you increase the strain on the rotator cuff muscles in your shoulder.

Step 1: Determine Your Injury

Disclaimer: The information on this page is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any assessment or beginning a rehabilitation protocol. 

Use the videos below as a resource to determine whether or not you have a rotator cuff strain.

Step 2: Determine Your Rehab Category

Use the table below to determine your rehabilitation category based on the results from your orthopedic tests. You will fit into a rehabilitation category (mild, moderate or severe) based on the number of tests that are positive.

Step 3: Start The Protocol

Once you have determined your rehabilitation category, you can begin the rock rehab protocol. The protocols contain a detailed timeline and step-by-step instructions. They utilize a four-phase system to unload the injured tissue, gain full mobility, improve strength and eventually return to pain-free climbing movement. The protocols can either be viewed within the program or downloaded as a PDF.

Get The Rotator Cuff Protocol $15

Sample Videos

These are videos from the actual Rock Rehab Protocol where professional climbers teach you efficient climbing movement and proper exercise performance.

Strength Level 2

The above exercise increases the strength and stability of the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder.

Movement Advice

The above video gives movement advice on how to take pressure off the rotator cuff while climbing.

  • Learn taping techniques that off-load the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Improve the mobility of the rotator cuff muscles that restrict shoulder motion.
  • Regain pain-free shoulder range of motion.
  • Improve the strength of the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Coordinate rotator cuff strength into climbing specific movements.
  • Emphasize optimal climbing movement.

Recommended Rehab Tools 

The Rock Rehab Protocols were built specifically for rock climbers. It is for this reason that any tool that is used in the protocol can either be bought as a rehabilitation tool or created from retired climbing equipment or household items. If you use retired climbing equipment or household items, it will be referenced in the videos as a “dirtbag substitution.” Below you will see a list of rehabilitation tools recommended for the Rotator Cuff Strain Protocol.

If you would like to purchase any of the rehab tools, you can find them in the links below:

About the Climbing Doctor

  • Doctor of physical therapy
  • University of Southern California professor
  • Residency trained in orthopedics
  • Fellowship trained in movement science
  • 9 years of concentrated academic study
  • Over a decade of clinical experience treating climbers
  • Board certified orthopedic clinical specialist
  • Certified strength and conditioning specialist
  • Numerous articles on preventing injuries
  • Lectures internationally on injury prevention
  • Author of best selling book Climb Injury-Free

Get All Six Protocols for Just $75

Avoid injuries by following protocols for pulley sprain, shoulder impingement, rotator cuff strain, lateral epicondylosis, medial epicondylosis and neck strain/sprain.

Get All 6 for Just $75

Get The Companion Book

The “Climb Injury-Free” book will teach you how to diagnosis, treat and prevent the 10 most common climbing injuries in step-by-step chapters. Learn exclusive injury advice with over 30 profiles from top professional climbers including Adam Ondra, Sasha DiGiulian Sean McColl, Jonathan Siegrist and many more. Now you can utilize the system used by thousands of climbers worldwide and see the results for yourself.

  • Prevent climbing injuries before they happen
  • Learn how to rehabilitate the 10 most common climbing injuries
  • Discover the 30 incorrect movement patterns that cause injury
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