Condition: Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

This is inflammation of the tendons that shoulder the “ball and socket” shoulder joint.

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What is rotator cuff tendonitis?

Rotator cuff tendonitis, which is associated with shoulder bursitis, impingement, and biceps tendonitis, is degeneration of the tendons which hold the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) into the scapula (shoulder blade). It’s relatively common and tends to affect people after the age of 40.

What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis?

The most obvious symptom of rotator cuff tendonitis is pain or aching in the shoulder joint, especially if loading the arm with a heavy weight. This pain is most likely to be felt in the front of your shoulder, and can also travel down the side of your arm to your elbow.

Depending on the severity, in addition to the pain when moving, rotator cuff tendonitis can cause:

  • Stiffness

  • Pain at rest or at night when lying in certain positions

  • Weakness and reduced range of motion in your shoulder

What causes rotator cuff tendonitis?

Rotator cuff tendonitis is essentially down to one genetics - i.e. certain people are more prone to developing this condition, and those often experience problems in both shoulders, thankfully not usually at the same time.

Rotator cuff tendonitis becomes more common with older age. 1 in 3 people over 70 have some degree of rotator cuff damage, although not everyone becomes symptomatic.

How is rotator cuff tendonitis diagnosed?

At OneWelbeck, one of our specialist orthopaedic consultants will be able to make a diagnosis of rotator cuff tendonitis by taking your medical history, asking you about your symptoms, doing a physical examination and running some tests.

Tests that may be required include an X-ray, MRI scan and ultrasound. These imaging tests will allow your consultant to see your rotator cuff and shoulder to accurately make a diagnosis of tendonitis and rule out a more severe problem such as a tendon tear.

How can rotator cuff tendonitis be treated?

Once you’ve received a diagnosis your consultant will talk you through your treatment options, which may include:

  • Regular physiotherapy to restore strength in the shoulder and ease pain

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Surgery to remove inflamed tissue and bone spurs

To alleviate pain and reduce swelling at home it can help to rest the joint, apply ice compresses, and use a sling to take pressure off the tendons in your shoulder and restrict movement. Taking over-the-counter painkillers and antinflammatories like paracetamol and ibuprofen will also help to bring down some of the soreness and inflammation.

It’s important to reduce or stop activities that exacerbate the tendonitis but it is important to remain active.

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Jul 2024


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