Understanding Shoulder Tendonitis
Every shoulder joint is held in place by a support system of muscles, including the bicep muscle, the supcapularis and the supraspinatus. When these tissues become inflamed and sore, the condition is referred to as shoulder tendonitis.
Shoulder tendonitis is a serious health concern since 10-15 percent of all cases are non-responsive to rehabilitation treatments, requiring the patient to undergo surgery to remove the affected tendons.
And with 20-30 percent of all people experiencing shoulder pain at some point in their adult life, it is crucial that individuals experiencing discomfort seek medical attention to determine the cause of their symptoms and prevent any injury from worsening.
What are the Symptoms of Shoulder Tendonitis?
In most cases, the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis seem mild and inconsequential at first but becoming progressively debilitating over time.
Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with the condition:
- Pain, swelling, or discomfort in the front of the shoulder or the outside of the arm
- A clicking sound when the arm is raised
- Pain or discomfort when moving the arm backward
- Stiffness or immobility of the shoulder region
- Pain during the night if pressure is applied to the shoulder area (When shifting positions, for example.)
What Causes Shoulder Tendonitis?
Unfortunately, there is no one specific movement, activity or injury that causes shoulder tendonitis.
There are, however, certain factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the condition.
Below are some of the most common shoulder tendonitis causes:
- A direct blow to the shoulder (Falling on the shoulder, being hit while playing contact sports, etc.)
- Repetitive movements (Pitching a baseball, painting walls with a paint roller, weight lifting, etc.)
- Tendons or nerves being pinched by surrounding bones or spurs.
- Poor posture (Sitting with the shoulders rolled forward for extended periods of time.)
How is Shoulder Tendonitis Diagnosed?
Physicians use a range of diagnostic tools and tests to determine if a patient is experiencing shoulder tendonitis.
Typically, a healthcare professional will begin by having the patient complete a series of physical tests.
Physical tests used in the diagnosis of shoulder tendonitis include (but are not limited to):
After conducting a physical examination, it is likely that a physician will order X-rays or an MRI to obtain a more in-depth, definitive look at any present injuries.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Shoulder Tendonitis?
For those looking to reduce the likelihood of developing tendinitis, the following steps should be adhered to:
- Avoid activities that require repetitive use of the shoulder or that place pressure on the shoulder area
- Stop any activities that result in pain immediately and rest the shoulder
- Perform gentle stretches each day to maintain range of motion and reduce stiffness
- Avoid spending too much time slouching or sitting in a position that does not support proper posture
- Avoiding straining to read overhead cupboards or high-up items
- Always warm up before working out or engaging in rigorous physical activity
- Wear a compression shoulder brace to support your shoulder and minimize potentially-harmful movements
- Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms begin to worsen
What is the Recommended Shoulder Tendonitis Treatment?
Physicians treat shoulder tendonitis in several different ways, depending on the severity of the condition, what caused it, and how well it has responded to previous therapies.
The first thing your doctor will do is recommend that you rest your shoulder. Continuing to use the shoulder or engage in activities that worsen pain will only further aggravate the injury. Thus, your practitioner may place your arm in a sling to limit movement and prevent additional damage.
Cold compression therapy is also a beneficial step, although it isn’t a guaranteed shoulder tendonitis cure. Many physicians recommend cold compresses for pain relief and as a means of preventing further inflammation.
For patients wondering how to cure shoulder tendonitis that is more severe, medication and physical therapy are to be expected.
Physicians often prescribe anti-inflammatories, pain medications and cortisol injections when treating shoulder injuries. The regimen you receive will depend on the severity of your injury.
It is also customary for doctors to stipulate that a patient attend physical therapy for shoulder tendonitis, as it aids in the strengthening of muscles and can expedite the healing process.
Common physical therapy exercises for shoulder tendonitis include:
- Pendulum exercises
- Supine passive arm elevations
- Supine cross-chest stretches
- Behind-the-back internal rotations
- Theraband stretches
- Sleeper stretches
It is important for patients to remember that there is no such thing as a straightforward answer when determining how to cure shoulder tendonitis. In most cases, patients undergo multiple treatments and therapies.
With that being said, approximately 80 percent of people with tendinosis make a full recovery, making the outlook for patients with the condition exceptionally positive.
How Long Does it Take Shoulder Tendonitis to Heal?
Mild rotator cuff injuries can heal in as little as 4-6 weeks, while more severe cases, or injuries requiring shoulder tendonitis surgery, can take six months or longer.
A combination of both medical treatment and physiotherapy is most effective for treating shoulder tendonitis and can reduce the amount of time it takes for the shoulder to heal. Thus, it is always important to speak with your physician and physiotherapist to develop a customized treatment plan that caters to your specific goals.
Why Choose ShoulderMD?
With nearly 20 years of experience studying and treating orthopedic conditions, Dr. Schwartz is uniquely qualified to diagnose and provide curative care for cases of shoulder tendonitis. He is completely board certified (American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery), is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and is also a candidate member of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Society.
But the greatest evidence of Dr. Schwartz’ skill and qualifications comes from his patients, who have witnessed first-hand just how dedicated he is to providing specialized, industry-leading care.
We encourage you to browse our testimonials page and see for yourself.
Do you suspect you may have shoulder tendonitis? contact our office today to schedule an assessment.