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All About Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

All About Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

If you have nagging shoulder pain that doesn’t seem to get better, or comes and goes, you may have rotator cuff tendonitis. Your rotator cuff is a complex group of muscles and tendons. These tissues work together to give your shoulder mobility and keep it in its socket. When it’s irritated, pain and limited range of motion is common. 

Here at aCELLerated Interventional Orthopedics, pain management specialist, Brian K. Rich, MD, treats a range of orthopedic issues, including shoulder pain and problems with the rotator cuff. 

Rotator cuff anatomy and function

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball (humeral head) is covered by the set of four muscles of the rotator cuff, which helps you to raise and rotate your arm. For all movements that require the shoulder to be at or above shoulder level, these muscles and their tendons work together with the deltoid muscle to give the shoulder mobility and strength. 

Understanding rotator cuff tendonitis

The shoulder has a unique muscle-bone configuration. The muscles that make up the rotator cuff are sandwiched between two bones. As the most mobile joint in the body, the shoulder is more vulnerable to overuse issues such as rotator cuff tendonitis. This condition arises when the rotator cuff becomes irritated and inflamed. Usually the small fluid-filled sac called the bursa also becomes irritated.

Hobbies or sports that involve repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing a baseball, playing tennis, or painting, raking, can trigger rotator cuff tendonitis. An injury to the shoulder is another culprit. 

Signs and symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis

Pain and discomfort extending from the outside arm to several inches below the top of the shoulder is one of the characteristic symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis. Pain at the front and top of the shoulder is also common. For side sleepers, rotator cuff tendonitis often makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. The nagging pain in the upper arm and shoulder can cause you to toss and turn.

Raising the arms upward or reaching behind often exacerbates the shoulder pain. Some people are unable to raise their arms above a certain point without intense pain, while others may have trouble reaching behind.

You might also hear a popping or clicking sound when raising your arm overhead.

Treating rotator cuff tendonitis

If a diagnosis of rotator cuff tendonitis is confirmed, Dr. Rich goes over some treatment options with you. Limiting repetitive shoulder movements, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication are helpful as initial treatments.

Steroid injections are also effective in relieving pain. Rehabilitation for mild shoulder tendonitis may take several weeks. Moderate-to-severe rotator cuff tendonitis can take several months to rehabilitate.

If symptoms persist, Dr. Rich may recommend rotator cuff repair surgery. There are various ways to repair a damaged rotator cuff. The approach depends on the specifics of your rotator cuff damage. 

For example, if a bone spur is causing tendonitis, surgery to remove the spur can provide relief. When bursitis — marked by chronically inflamed, thickened bursa — is the problem, surgery can be performed to remove the damaged tissue. If a shoulder tendon is torn, surgery to repair the tendon restores shoulder function and relieves pain.

An early rehabilitation program beginning one or two days after surgery and progressing to a more thorough program puts you on the path to recovery.

Don’t let shoulder pain keep you from leading an active lifestyle. Our team works closely with you to diagnose and treat your shoulder pain so you can get back to pain-free living. Contact our office to schedule a visit to have Dr. Rich evaluate your shoulder. Our clinics are located in Southlake, Texas, and Lawton, Oklahoma.

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