Rotator Cuff Injury (Shoulder Tendonitis)
What is a rotator cuff injury? — A rotator cuff injury is a condition that can cause shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 shoulder muscles and their tendons. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones.
People can get different types of rotator cuff injuries. One common injury is "tendinopathy," which is when people have a problem with 1 of their tendons. In most people with tendinopathy, the tendons are not inflamed or swollen. If they do get inflamed or swollen, doctors call it "tendinitis." Tendinopathy and tendinitis can happen if people use their rotator cuff muscles too much or do a lot of activity with their arms overhead.
Another type of rotator cuff injury is a tear in a tendon. Tears can happen if a person falls on the shoulder or moves the shoulder too fast and with too much force. Tears can also happen as a tendon wears out over time.
What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury? — Most people with tendinopathy or tendinitis have pain where the shoulder meets the top of the arm and down the outer part of the upper arm. The pain is usually worse when they move their arm over their head or lie on their shoulder.
People with a torn tendon usually have shoulder pain and might also have trouble raising their arm overhead.
Will I need tests? — You might. Your doctor or nurse will talk with you and do an exam. If he or she suspects a tear, you might need an imaging test of the shoulder. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
How is a rotator cuff injury treated? — Many rotator cuff injuries get better on their own, but they can take months to heal completely. To help your shoulder get better, you can:
Rest your shoulder – Avoid doing activities that cause pain or strain your shoulder, such as raising your arm overhead or reaching behind you. In general, try to keep your arm down, close to, and in front of your body. But you can move your shoulder gently if you need to.
Ice your shoulder – Put a cold gel pack, bag of ice, or bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area every 1 to 2 hours, for 15 minutes each time, as needed. Put a thin towel between the ice (or other cold object) and your skin.
Take medicine to reduce the pain and swelling – Your doctor or nurse might recommend that you take ibuprofen (sample brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (sample brand names: Aleve, Naprosyn).
Some tears, especially large tears, might need to be treated with surgery.
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. Different exercises can help your shoulder feel better. Ask your doctor or nurse which exercises you should do, when to start them, and how often to do them.
Some exercises help keep your shoulder from getting too stiff. One of these is called the pendulum stretch. To do this exercise, let your arm relax and hang down. Move your arm back and forth, then side to side, and then around in small circles (figure 1). Your doctor or nurse can also show you other stretches that you can do.
Other exercises can help strengthen your shoulder muscles. Your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist (exercise expert) can show you how to do these types of exercises.
When you do shoulder exercises, it's important to:
Warm up your shoulder first by taking a hot shower or bath, or massaging the area
Start slowly and make the exercises harder over time
Know that some soreness is normal. If you have sharp or tearing pain, stop what you're doing and let your doctor or nurse know.
What if my symptoms don't get better? — If your symptoms don't get better, talk with your doctor or nurse about other possible treatments, such as:
Getting a shot of medicine into your shoulder
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 16298 Version 5.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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