What is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

Rotator cuff tendonitis is an inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the tendons of the shoulder.

What are the causes of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula.

Inflammation of the tendons of the shoulder muscles can occur in sports requiring the arm to be moved over the head repeatedly as in tennis, baseball (particularly pitching), swimming, and lifting weights over the head. Chronic inflammation or injury can cause the tendons of the rotator cuff to tear.

The risk factors are being over age 40 and participation in sports or exercise that involves repetitive arm motion over the head (such as baseball).

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

What are the symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

  • Shoulder Pain associated with arm movement
  • Pain in the shoulder at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Weakness with raising the arm above the head, or pain with overhead activities.

How to diagnose Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

A physical examination may reveal tenderness over the shoulder. Pain may occur when the shoulder is raised overhead. There is usually weakness of the shoulder when it is placed in certain positions.

X-rays may show a bone spur, while MRI may show inflammation in the rotator cuff. An MRI can show a tear in the rotator cuff.

What is the treatment for Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

Treatment involves resting the shoulder and avoiding activities that cause pain. Ice packs applied to the shoulder and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will help reduce inflammation and pain.

Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff should be started. If the pain persists or if therapy is not possible because of severe pain, a steroid injection may reduce pain and inflammation enough to allow effective therapy.

If the rotator cuff has had a complete tear, or if the symptoms persist despite conservative therapy, surgery may be necessary. Arthroscopic surgery can be used to repair some tears and remove bone spurs and inflamed tissue around the shoulder. Some large tears require open surgery to repair the torn tendon.

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