Shoulder Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Shoulder Tendonitis is a medical condition which involves swelling and irritation of the tendons and muscles in the shoulder joint. The tendons are strong connective tissues that support the joint, help in the movement and keep the constituent bones in place. A set of muscles called the rotator cuff form an important part of the shoulder joint that prevents the humerus from slipping out of the glenoid cavity. They help in the upper arm movement such as lifting, swinging etc. Tendonitis majorly affects the rotator cuff muscles as the maximum movement is centered on this area and is thus also referred to as Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy or Impingement Syndrome. Although Shoulder Tendonitis is a progressive condition, it can be rectified with appropriate treatment.


  • Repeated stress and micro-traumas caused to the rotator cuff
  • Growth of bone spurs
  • Shoulder Bursitis- inflammation of the small fluid filled sacs in the joint called bursae
  • Impingement of the rotator cuff into the acromion bone may be a potential cause of swollen tendons
  • Poor posture may cause problems in the neck and thoracic spine which may alter the biomechanics of the shoulder joint
  • Sport activities that require repeated or high speed movement of the arms such as badminton, tennis, baseball, swimming etc.
  • Inherent weakness in the supporting joint muscles
  • Habitual sleeping or lying on the same side of the shoulder


  • Pain and discomfort while lifting the arms overhead, placing the hands behind the head, lifting weights or lying on the affected shoulder
  • In case the condition aggravates, pain may be experienced even while resting
  • A feeling of cracking or joint locking may be felt when the shoulder is moved
  • Loss of strength in the shoulder and upper arm
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Limited range of motion and stiffness


  • Details of the patient’s medical history, past injuries and symptoms reported may be taken into consideration
  • The doctor may check the affected shoulder by palpation and ask the patient to move the arm in different directions
  • X-ray imaging may be required to check bone spurs
  • Ultrasound and MRI imaging may provide a detailed picture of the tendons and the location of inflammation. It may also be useful in diagnosing tears in the tendons and muscles


  • The affected shoulder needs to be rested and any strenuous activity should be avoided
  • Applying ice packs at regular intervals for 24-72 hours may help to reduce pain and swelling
  • Shoulder straps, slings, taping and bandages may be used for light compression and support
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed by the orthopedic doctor to relieve discomfort
  • Physiotherapy and light exercises may be carried out to improve flexibility as well as keep the joint active
  • Corticosteroids may be injected into the joint for relief
  • Arthroscopic surgery may be recommended to treat the rotator cuff muscles
  • Maintaining a good posture, not sleeping on the affected shoulder and avoiding carrying heavy objects close to the body are other measures that can prevent flaring up of the problem

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