Understanding Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Understanding Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

The rotator cuff is a group of 4
muscles and tendons in the shoulder. Tendons are tough tissues that connect muscles
to
bone. The 4 muscles and their tendons form a “cuff” around the head of the upper arm
bone.
The rotator cuff connects the upper arm to the shoulder blade. It keeps the shoulder
joint
stable and gives it strength. It also helps the shoulder joint with certain movements.
These include reaching the arm over the head and rotating the arm.

If
tendons are injured or strained, they may get irritated and swollen (inflamed). This
is
called tendonitis.
Rotator cuff tendonitis may cause
shoulder pain. It may make it hard to move your shoulder.

What causes rotator cuff tendonitis?

When
the rotator cuff tendons are injured or overworked it causes tendonitis. The most
common
cause of injury is repetitive overhead activities. These can be work-related activities
such as reaching, pushing, or lifting. Or they can be sports-related activities such
as
throwing, swimming, or lifting weights.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis

Pain
on the side of the upper arm at the shoulder is the most common symptom. Pain may
get
worse with overhead movements. Or it can get worse when you raise the arm above shoulder
level. It may also hurt to lie on the shoulder at night.

Treatment for rotator cuff tendonitis

Treatment may include:

  • Active rest. This lets the rotator cuff heal. Active rest means using your
    arm and shoulder, but not doing activities that cause pain. These might be
    reaching overhead or sleeping on the shoulder.

  • Cold packs. Putting ice packs on the shoulder helps reduce swelling and
    ease pain.

  • Medicines. Prescription or over-the-counter medicines
    can help ease pain and swelling. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are
    the most common medicines used. They may be taken as pills. Or they may be put on
    the skin as a gel, cream, or patch.

  • Arm
    and shoulder exercises.
    These help keep the shoulder joint moving as it
    heals. They also help improve the strength of muscles around the joint.

Possible complications

You
may be tempted to stop using your shoulder completely to prevent pain. But doing so
may
lead to a condition called frozen shoulder. To help prevent this, follow instructions
you are given for active rest and for doing exercises to help your shoulder heal.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Chills
  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms