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Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Rotator cuff tendinitis, known more simply as, tendonitis, is a condition affecting the shoulder’s tendons and muscles that have become irritated or inflamed. Tendinitis can be chronic and generally occurs as a result of repetitive movement over a long period of time. Sports such as swimming, baseball, and tennis each incorporate repetitive movements and serve as good examples of activities that could lead to developing tendinitis. Thus, rotator cuff tendonitis is common in athletes and can also be referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder,” “pitcher’s shoulder,” or “tennis shoulder.”


Tendinitis usually begins manifesting with mild symptoms and relief can be sort by simply resting the affected area, however, if left untreated, tendinitis may gradually worsen over time. Now, if you are experiencing pain or discomfort in any of your shoulders, it is highly recommended that you seek advice from your local physical therapist and health practitioner. Some of the symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis are as follows:


  • Pain when raising your arm

  • Pain when lowering your arm from an elevated position

  • A swollen and painful shoulder

  • Sudden pain when lifting or moving your arm

  • Hearing a clicking sound when the arm is raised

  • Stiffness of the shoulder

  • Chronic pain at night (enough to wake you from your sleep)

  • Difficulty and possible pain when reaching for your back

  • Loss of strength and motion in the arm


Rotator cuff tendinitis is generally diagnosed by orthopedic specialists who specialize in the muscular-skeletal system of the body. Orthopedic specialists will examine the shoulders, looking for tenderness, swelling, or deformity. They will also review your medical history, and conduct an exam of your shoulder to check for motion range, strength, flexibility, etc.


The specialist will generally request an X-ray and MRI to confirm their diagnosis of rotator cuff tendinitis. These imaging tests will check for bone spurs, fluid accumulation, inflammations, or tearing.


Treatments may vary but are generally non-invasive (not requiring surgery). In more severe cases, however, surgery may be required, especially when pain is persistent. The surgery will make more space for the rotator cuff by removing inflamed parts of the acromion. A surgery method called the arthroscopic technique makes use of a fiber optic scope with a camera to remove the affected bone and tissue. Any other issues found during surgery will be addressed at the same time.


With both surgical and non-surgical treatments, physical therapy and rehabilitation are warranted. The doctor or physical therapist may recommend appropriate physical therapy exercises to help with the healing and rehabilitation process. There are several exercises that can be done to help with the rehabilitation of shoulder impingement:


Band and Raise Exercises


Using resistance bands to do arm raise exercises will greatly help in regaining shoulder strength. Gradually, these exercises will re-introduce the fluidity back into the affected joint that was previously limited from tendinitis. These exercises will also strengthen the muscles around the shoulders and arms.


Pressing Exercises


Vertical presses, which involve lifting your arms above your head, are one of the movements that most people struggle with if they are suffering from tendinitis. Thus, the same exercise post-surgery can help with regaining shoulder stability. Vertical presses develop and strengthen the muscles around the shoulders, including the chest and arms. As soon as you notice ease in raising your arms above your head, this may be a good indication that your rotator cuff has mostly healed and is in much better condition.


At Arise Physical Therapy, we can help in addressing rotator cuff tendonitis. Whether the focus is on preventing surgery, or on rehabilitation post-surgery, either way, we have it covered. Please feel free to get in touch with us today and one of our friendly staff members will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.


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