Condition: Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

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


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What is a Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?

This is inflammation of the tendons that shoulder the “ball and socket” shoulder joint. This can cause pain and weakness on shoulder movement especially when picking up heavy objects or using the arm overhead.

Causes of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Rotator cuff tendinitis is mainly caused by your genetic make-up. It may also be related to certainly manual occupations and physical activities (overhead sports). It is thought to also be associated with diabetes. In some people it is a precursor to developing rotator cuff tears.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Initial symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis can be relieved with rest, but over time symptoms can get worse.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the shoulder when moving the arm up and down, or from reaching behind your back
  • Loss of strength in the arm

Treating Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Avoiding activities that cause pain to your shoulder, applying a cold compress to the area and taking pain killers or anti-inflammatories may treat any initial symptoms.


You may be referred for physiotherapy by your consultant to help restore strength in the shoulder and ease any pain.

Steroid Injection

Injections around the tendons are often very effective in reducing pain. They work by reducing the inflammation and often help to allow you progress better with physiotherapy.


If non-surgical treatment is not successful you may be advised to undergo surgery. The exact nature of the surgery depends on how much damage the tendons have suffered.

Why might I need a Rotator Cuff Repair?

As you grow older the tendons surrounding your shoulder joint (the rotator cuff tendons) degenerate as part of the normal ageing process. They may become inflamed and painful, and can even tear. This can cause pain, weakness and sometimes stiffness. Usually this can be treated with a combination of steroid injections and physiotherapy. If your symptoms are resistant to non-operative treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. This would be particularly necessary if you use your arms for physical activity often such as sports, or a manual job.

What will happen during my surgery?

If you are a smoker, you will be asked to stop as it delays or prevents healing and increases risk of getting a chest or wound infection. The procedure will be done under general anaesthetic and you will been given instruction as to when you should stop eating prior to the surgery. We will make sure that you feel completely at ease, and give you every opportunity to ask as many questions as you would like to your surgeon.

The aim of the operation is to repair the torn tendon. Most repairs are performed via key-hole surgery, however some may be performed as an open procedure.

The operation will involve removing degenerative tissue and bringing the tendon back to its original insertion on the head of the humerus (the ball part of the socket). The tendon is held in place with anchors. Anchors are used to hold the tendon in place while it heals – these are small hard pellets (usually plastic) with tails of strong suture material that are fired into the bone in the humeral head. The suture tails are passed through the tendon and then tied down.

The operation may also involve removing some bone from the underside of the bony arch (acromion) which is positioned just above the rotator cuff tendons known as an acromioplasty. This prevents the bony arch from rubbing on the tendons and repair when the shoulder is moving. Your surgeon may combine the procedure with removal of the biceps tendon from the shoulder or removal of the joint between the collar bone and shoulder-blade (the acromioclavicular joint).

Once your surgery has finished, you will be taken back to your room to rest. Once the consultant or nurse has discharged you, you will be free to go home and rest. Your Consultant will give you further instructions before you leave regarding your aftercare.