Information on Shoulder Tendonitis & Rotator Cuff Inflammation

Shoulder tendonitis is a medical condition that involves the inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon and / or the biceps tendon. This condition mostly affects young individuals involved in sport, but is also common among the middle-aged demographic that actively participate in activities involving repeated overhead arm movements. This type of movement is common when playing sports such as baseball, lifting weights, swimming or alternatively where these types of movements occur during work on a daily basis, such as painters and decorators, or with construction workers.

Shoulder Tendonitis Symptoms & Causes

Here is a diagram of the interior of the shoulder, and the particular aspects involved with tendonitis.

Here is a diagram of the interior of the shoulder, and the particular aspects involved with tendonitis.

Several joints combine to provide a wide range of motion for the shoulder, making it particaularly vulnerable to injuries. The inflammation is caused by the rotator tendon getting pinched by surrounding structures. The rotator tendon is generally the source of pain with tendonitis in the shoulder. Sometimes an injury might be the initial cause of the problem and the extent of injury can range from mild to severe with varying degrees of pain. The rotator cuff thickens due to inflammation, resulting in soreness and swelling of the front part of the shoulder. The tendon may also get trapped under the shoulder blade or acromion process, the condition being called impingement syndrome.

The symptoms of tendonitis include swelling, soreness, tenderness with an onset of gradual, creeping pain in the upper shoulder, stiffness, visible difficulty in sleeping on the shoulder. Holding the arm in certain specific positions and lifting it overhead or away from the body are also indicators of this type of condition. It is advisable to get a diagnosis completed by a medical practitioner which may comprise of physical examination and imaging tests such as an X-ray, MRI and / or ultrasound.The doctor may test the arm for movements and strength. The imaging tests give a clear and better picture of soft tissues, fluid accumulation and any tears that may be present.

Treatment of the Condition

The aim of the treatment is mainly pain reduction and restoring the normal functioning of the rotator cuff. The procedure prescribed takes into account the age and health of the patient, activity level and most importantly, the extent of the problem. The initial treatment is based on non surgical procedures with a gradual improvement that may take from weeks to months to completely heal. The treatment generally includes resting the affected part by avoiding overhead movements, apply ice pack compresses, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and pain and stretching exercises by a physical therapist, followed by strengthening exercises for milder injury.

Corticosteroid injections are advised for the advanced stages where rest, medication and exercises do not work effectively enough. The injections are directly injected into the Bursa beneath the shoulder blade which relieves the pain. The severe form of tendonitis that does not respond to the non surgical treatments, is usually met with advice for a surgical procedure known as Subacromial Decompression. This treatment is undertaken by an arthroscopic procedure (a type of keyhole surgery), the aim of which is to create more space for the rotator cuff. After the surgery, the affected arm is kept in a sling for some time to allow speedy healing after which a rehabilitation program is followed to regain the strength and motion of the shoulder. A time period of 2-4 months to 1 year is approximated for the condition to heal completely.

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