PT Tip of the Month Archive

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Anterior viewThe rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor) that wrap around the top portion of your upper arm bone (humerus). The primary function of these muscles and their associated tendons is to help stabilize the ball within the shoulder joint. When the ball and socket joint is properly stabilized, your arm can move freely with the help of the larger muscles surrounding your shoulder.

Rotator cuff tendonitis is an inflammation of one or more of these tendons. The resulting pain and swelling within the shoulder can weaken your rotator cuff and interfere with its normal function. If left untreated, this condition can often lead to a rotator cuff tear.

Posterior view

Common symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis include an ache within the shoulder or along the side of the upper arm. These symptoms typically worsen when moving your arm overhead. Many people with this condition have pain and difficulty with everyday activities such as brushing their hair or reaching for objects overhead. Sleeping on the side of the affected shoulder can be painful as well.

Risk factors for developing rotator cuff tendonitis include being over the age of 40 and participating in sports, exercises, and occupations that involve repetitive overhead motions.

It is best to avoid any painful or overhead activities and to contact your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Icing your shoulder for 10 – 20 minutes, 2-3 times a day will help to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with this condition.

One of our licensed physical therapists can evaluate the cause of your shoulder pain and will determine the best course of treatment. Your treatment may include the use of modalities to help control pain and inflammation, range of motion and strengthening exercises, stretching, and manual therapy.
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