Shoulder Tendonitis

Shoulder tendonitis is frequently the painful result of a tendon being pinched by other shoulder structures, causing swelling of your biceps tendon and/or rotator cuff. Because your rotator cuff is comprised of shoulder muscles and tendons, shoulder tendonitis tends to afflict participants of sports that require repetitive overhead arm movements, including:

  • Baseball
  • Weightlifting
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

Because the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis can mimic other health issues, you should consult an orthopedist for an accurate diagnosis.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Shoulder pain or tenderness
  • Weakness or pain that prevents you from holding your arm in certain positions

How Is Shoulder Tendonitis Diagnosed?

After your doctor does a physical exam and discusses your medical history with you, one of the following imaging tests are likely to be ordered:

  • X-ray using radiation to visualize your shoulder
  • MRI to see high-detail images of your shoulder structure and tissues
  • Ultrasonography using high-frequency sound waves to create images of certain parts of your shoulder

How Is Shoulder Tendonitis Treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Your doctor will work with you to pinpoint optimal treatments for your shoulder tendonitis.

Treatments may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Corticosteroid injection
  • Surgery (for severe injuries)

How Might Shoulder Tendonitis Be Prevented?

If you feel a twinge, don’t wait to do something about it. Because most cases of shoulder tendonitis are caused by overuse, the best treatment is prevention.

Immediately reassess what you can do to prevent full-blown tendonitis, including:

  • Modify how you do the activities that seem to cause the problem
  • Identify underlying conditions (e.g. poor posture or form when performing tasks) that, if corrected, could prevent shoulder tendonitis
  • When introducing a new activity, take it slow at first and gradually build up your activity level and of course, stop immediately if you feel pain

Shoulder Tendonitis Exercises for Therapy & Prevention

Starting with a gentle warmup, you can do some daily shoulder exercises and stretches that can help ease the pain of, or even prevent, shoulder tendonitis. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend exercises like the pendulum swing, supine shoulder flexion stretch, and the cross chest stretch. Be sure to hold each stretch for 15 to 20 seconds and complete at least 10 repetitions of each two or three times per day.

Tips for Your Next Doctor Visit

  • Be prepared with questions and expectations for what you hope to accomplish with the visit.
  • Consider bringing someone with you to ask different and additional questions, and to help you remember information provided by your doctor.
  • Record important information (e.g., diagnosis, medications, therapies, tests, instructions) by writing it down or by using an app
  • Understand your medications, why they were prescribed, what they do, and their potential side effects
  • Ask about ALL your treatment options
  • Know the reasons for any tests that are ordered, and what they measure.
  • Always ask about next steps.