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Rotator Cuff Tendonitis: What It Is & How to Treat It

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Did you know that there are approximately 56 cases of rotator cuff tear per day in Houston? On a national scale, that’s more than 3 million instances of rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and four tendons that joins in the shoulder. These muscles and tendons work together to allow strength and range of motion in the shoulder.

What Is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

All kinds of movements – from throwing a fastball to reaching for the saltshaker – depend on the rotator cuff. In some people, the rotator cuff, along with the bursa (a lubricated sac between the rotator cuff and the bones above the shoulder), becomes inflamed. This condition of chronic inflammation is what your sports medicine doctor may classify as “rotator cuff tendonitis.”

The Heel, Sock & Boot

The rotator cuff is subject to a lot of wear and tear. One illustration that may help you understand how much friction the rotator cuff sustains is to think of the muscle group as the sock between the heel and the back of a boot. The upper arm bone represents the heel, and the bones in the shoulder represent the inside of the boot. Wedged tightly in between these bones is the rotator cuff (the “sock”), which sustains pressure and friction from both sides (the “heel” and the “boot”).

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis may include:

  • Pain that radiates from the shoulder
  • Pain in the front and/or top of the shoulder
  • Shoulder pain that disrupts sleep
  • Symptoms that worsen when raising the arms or reaching behind the back
  • Clicking/popping sound in the shoulder when raising the arm overhead

Diagnosing Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Your Houston sports medicine doctor may diagnose rotator cuff tendonitis through a review of your medical history and a physical exam, during which your range of motion is tested. While this simple in-office measure is usually enough to lead to an accurate diagnosis, an x-ray or MRI may be requested to confirm diagnosis.

Treating Rotator Cuff Tendonitis In Houston

The first step in treating rotator cuff tendonitis is to stop using the arm at or above shoulder level, as these types of activities can exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, your doctor may recommend icing the shoulder and using NSAIDs to manage pain and inflammation. Your physician may also suggest:

  • Regular stretching
  • Cortisone injections
  • And, in rare cases, surgery

Schedule With a Houston Sports Medicine Doctor

Are you experiencing shoulder pain that won’t go away? Schedule an appointment with a specialist at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics by calling (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.