Shoulder Tendonitis

What You Need to Know

  • Tendonitis of your shoulder is an inflammation of your rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon.
  • It usually results from your tendon being pinched by surrounding structures.
  • You can develop shoulder tendonitis from participating in certain sports that require the arm to move over the head repeatedly. These sports may include baseball, weightlifting, volleyball, racket sports, and certain swimming strokes.

What is shoulder tendonitis?

Tendonitis of your shoulder is an inflammation of your rotator cuff or biceps tendon. Your rotator cuff consists of the muscles and tendons in your shoulder. They connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade.

Your injury may range from mild inflammation to severe inflammation of most of your rotator cuff. When your rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it is also called rotator cuff tendonitis. Your rotator cuff tendon may get trapped under the roof, or the highest point, of your shoulder. This is called your acromion. It is formed by a part of your shoulder blade, called your scapula.

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Many sports injuries result from pushing our bodies past our current physical limits or level of conditioning. 

Follow these five tips from sports medicine expert Dr. Andrew Cosgarea to avoid getting hurt.

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of shoulder tendonitis. However, you may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Inability to hold your arm in certain positions

  • Pain or tenderness in your shoulder

The symptoms of shoulder tendonitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is shoulder tendonitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for shoulder tendonitis may include:

  • X-ray. Invisible electromagnetic energy beams produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. Large magnets and a computer produce detailed images of organs and structures within your body.

  • Ultrasonography. High-frequency sound waves create an image of some part of the inside of your body.

Treatment for shoulder tendonitis

Your healthcare provider will discuss with you specific treatment for shoulder tendonitis, based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • The extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Corticosteroid injection

  • Surgery (for severe injuries)

What are the complications of shoulder tendonitis?

If treatment is not started when your pain and discomfort are relatively mild, complications may develop. These may include:

  • Pain that interrupts your sleep.

  • Loss of strength or motion in your affected arm.

  • Difficulty doing things that require moving your injured arm behind your back or overhead, such as fastening zippers or buttons, or placing objects in high places.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Notify your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain worsens

  • It becomes more difficult to move your injured arm

  • Your pain interrupts your sleep

  • Your pain and discomfort keep you from doing your normal activities

Request an Appointment

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