Shoulder tendonitis

Shoulder Tendonitis: A Detailed Overview

Shoulder tendonitis is a common injury that can occur in sports or occupations involving repetitive overhead work, or overuse of the tendons. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that work with the muscles to fully support the shoulder joint, allowing for a wide range of movement.

What is shoulder tendonitis?

Shoulder tendonitis is a common condition characterised by inflammation or irritation of the tendons in the shoulder joint. When these tendons become inflamed or irritated, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the shoulder.

Improper techniques in sports such as netball, swimming, tennis and golf can overload the shoulder tendon, leading to tendonitis. It can also occur because of a sudden traumatic injury.

What is the difference between shoulder tendonitis and bursitis?

The difference between shoulder tendonitis and bursitis lies in the specific structures affected. Tendonitis involves inflammation of the tendons, while bursitis involves inflammation of the bursa, small sacs filled with fluid that cushion and lubricate the joint.

Both conditions can cause similar symptoms, including pain, swelling, and limited range of motion, but they affect different structures in the shoulder.

What are the different types of shoulder tendonitis?

There are several types of shoulder tendonitis, each affecting different tendons in the shoulder joint. One common type is rotator cuff tendonitis (shoulder impingement), which involves inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles. This can occur due to overuse, repetitive movements, or trauma to the shoulder and usually for younger athletes in sports such as tennis or swimming.

Another type is biceps tendonitis, which affects the tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder. This can result from overuse, degeneration, or shoulder instability. With this injury, there is pain in the front of the shoulder when lifting the arm over the head.

Supraspinatus tendonitis involves inflammation of the supraspinatus tendon, which can occur due to overuse or impingement of the tendon against the acromion.

Calcific tendonitis can occur when calcium deposits build up in the rotator cuff, resulting in extreme shoulder pain and reduced shoulder mobility. With this condition, if conservative treatments are unsuccessful (anti-inflammatories, physio and/or injections), then ultrasound-guided barbotage may be recommended, where the calcium is extracted with a syringe. After this, you may require surgical excision of the calcium deposits.

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

Symptoms of shoulder tendonitis typically include pain, stiffness, swelling, and weakness in the shoulder. The pain is often felt deep within the joint and may worsen with movement, especially overhead activities or reaching behind the back. Stiffness and swelling may also be present, making it difficult to move the arm freely. In some cases, a clicking or popping sensation may be felt when moving the shoulder.

How is shoulder tendonitis diagnosed?

Diagnosing shoulder tendonitis usually involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies. Your London Shoulder Specialist will inquire about the onset, duration, and characteristics of the pain, as well as any precipitating factors or previous injuries.

Physical examination may include assessing shoulder range of motion, strength, and specific tests to evaluate for signs of tendonitis. Imaging studies such as X-rays, ultrasound or MRI are typically used for assessing signs of inflammation and for supporting a diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for shoulder tendonitis?

Treatment options for shoulder tendonitis aim to reduce pain and inflammation, improve shoulder function, and prevent recurrence. Conservative treatments are usually recommended as the first line of treatment and may include rest, activity modification, ice therapy, and physical therapy.

Resting the shoulder and avoiding activities that exacerbate pain can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Ice therapy can also help alleviate pain and swelling, while physical therapy exercises can strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve range of motion.

In some cases, medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroid injections may be recommended to alleviate pain and inflammation.

When is surgery needed for shoulder tendonitis?

Surgery is usually reserved for cases that do not respond to conservative treatments or for severe tendon damage. Surgical options may include arthroscopic debridement, in which the damaged tissue is removed, or tendon repair, in which the torn tendon is reattached to the bone. Usually, after a full recovery from surgery, there is a full return to sports or activity.

What is recovery like after surgery for shoulder tendonitis?

Recovery after shoulder tendonitis varies depending on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of treatment. With conservative treatments, most individuals can expect gradual improvement over several weeks to months.

Physical therapy is often a crucial component of recovery, focusing on strengthening the shoulder muscles, improving range of motion, and restoring function. However, it’s important to follow the recommended treatment plan and avoid overdoing activities too soon to prevent reinjury.

Can lifestyle changes help manage shoulder tendonitis?

Lifestyle changes can also help manage shoulder tendonitis and prevent recurrence. Strengthening exercises targeting the shoulder muscles and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet can also support shoulder health and reduce the risk of tendonitis.

By adopting these lifestyle changes and following a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals can effectively manage shoulder tendonitis and improve shoulder function over time.

If you suspect that you may have shoulder tendonitis, speak to your London Shoulder Specialist who can recommend an appropriate treatment plan and ways to effectively manage your condition.