Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that connect the shoulder blade to the arm bone and support the motion of the arm. When rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or damaged, this is known as rotator cuff tendonitis.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Causes
Shoulder pain, especially focused in the rotator cuff area, could be tendonitis in the rotator cuff. Tendonitis can be caused by several things, including:
- Overuse - the most common cause of tendonitis in all parts of the body.
- Accumulation of calcium deposits.
The repetition of a particular movement over time can cause the tendons to become inflamed. Athletes, such as baseball pitchers, swimmers, and tennis players, are vulnerable to painful inflammation from overuse. People whose profession involves overhead work are also at risk.
Impingement syndrome occurs when the rotator cuff tendons rub against the acromion (roof of the shoulder). Usually, there is enough room between the acromion and the rotator cuff so that the tendons slide easily underneath the acromion as the arm is raised. But each time you raise your arm, however, there is a bit of rubbing or pinching that occurs. Day-to-day activities that involve using the arm above shoulder level cause some impingement and repetitive actions of the shoulder are the typical causes of impingement.
When calcium deposits form on the tendons of your shoulder, inflammation can occur. This condition, called calcific tendonitis, most often affects people over the age of 40.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Symptoms
The primary symptom of rotator cuff tendonitis is pain and stiffness that makes it difficult to raise and lower or rotate your arm.
Other symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis can include:
- Swelling and tenderness in the front of the shoulder
- Minor shoulder pain that is felt both during activity and while at rest
- Sudden pain when lifting or reaching
- Pain that radiates from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm
- Loss of strength and motion in the arm
- Difficulty performing daily activities like buttoning or zippering
In order to properly diagnose rotator cuff tendonitis, it’s recommended that you see an orthopedic specialist who will need to perform a physical examination of your shoulder. Imaging procedures, such as X-ray or MRI may also be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment and Recovery of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
While tendonitis causes shoulder pain, it is the mildest of shoulder conditions and is typically treatable without surgery.
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and restore function. Factors such as your age, activity level, and general health will be taken into consideration when it comes to planning your treatment.
In most cases, initial treatment for rotator cuff tendonitis (and all types of tendonitis) is nonsurgical. These methods can take anywhere from several weeks to months before patients see improvement.
Nonsurgical treatment may include:
Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Surgery is typically only recommended for tendonitis after nonsurgical treatments are exhausted without improving the patient’s condition. Surgical procedures can be performed either arthroscopically or traditionally (open surgery).
The goal of surgery is to create more space for the rotator cuff. To do this, your orthopedic surgeon will remove the inflamed portion of the bursa. In some cases, he or she may also remove part of the acromion.
After surgery, our orthopedic specialists and physical therapy team will work together to create a rehabilitation plan that is designed specifically for you to gain back your strength and range of motion, as much as possible.
To speak with an SROSM shoulder specialist, make an appointment at the location closest to you in Spring or The Woodlands.