Trainer’s Corner Monthly Blog Series – Rotator Cuff Tendinitis


jen degman,  certified athletic trainer, central regional hsBy Jen Degnan, a Certified Athletic Trainer at Central Regional Middle School in Bayville, New Jersey. Jen currently works Tuesday nights during Dr. Tauro’s Sports Clinic hours.

Summer is here! You want to get out and enjoy the outdoors or do work around the house, but you suddenly have pain in your shoulder. You can’t do what you want without being in pain. Maybe you have rotator cuff tendinitis.

What is rotator cuff tendinitis?

rotator cuffThe shoulder is made up of the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that cover the humeral head and connect it to your shoulder blade. The rotator cuff controls arm rotation and elevation.

Rotator cuff tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of the tendons that help move the shoulder joint. Tendinitis usually occurs over a period of time from activities that are associated with repetitive overhead movement, such as throwing, swimming, washing windows, or painting. Rotator cuff injuries are the most common cause of shoulder pain. The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis tend to get worse over time. Symptoms are aggravated by overhead activities or by reaching behind the body.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain along the lateral or outside portion of the shoulder
  • Pain triggered by raising or lowering the shoulder
  • Clicking sound with arm movement especially overhead movement
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of mobility and strength in the arm
  • Sleeping comfortably may be a problem

An orthopedic physician will diagnose rotator cuff tendinitis by taking a thorough patient history, as well as, completing an examination of the affected shoulder. Patients should avoid activities that cause pain. Physical therapy is prescribed and consists of stretching, range of motion exercises, and strengthening.

The physical therapist needs to concentrate on strengthening the rotator cuff muscles to keep the ball (humeral head) centered in the socket. This prevents the humeral head from riding up and impinging the rotator cuff which will increase inflammation and pain if it is not addressed.

Also, the relationship between the rotator cuff muscles and the peri scapular muscles in the area of the shoulder blade must be addressed. If this relationship in muscle strength is not restored, patients will continue to experience pain and inflammation, so that’s why it is a key component in the physical therapy process.

Most people regain full function of their shoulder without any pain and are able to return to full activity with no restrictions. If physical therapy is not successful in resolving the patient’s symptoms, the orthopedic doctor may order additional tests, such as a magnetic imaging arthrogram (MRA), to rule out other problems.

For more information on shoulder procedures, visit Ocean County Sport Medicine’s website.

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