Rotator cuff tendinitis, or tendonitis, impacts the muscles and tendons that enable a person to move their shoulder joint. Tendinitis refers to the irritation and inflammation of the tendons. Rotator cuff tendinitis is also known as impingement syndrome.
Rotator cuff problems typically develop over time. An injury could occur due to keeping the shoulder in one position for a period, sleeping on the same shoulder every night, or performing motions that require lifting the arm overhead.
Athletes who play sports that require lifting their arm overhead generally develop rotator cuff tendinitis. For this reason, this condition is also known as:
- pitcher’s shoulder
- swimmer’s shoulder
- tennis shoulder
At times, rotator cuff tendinitis may develop without any apparent reason. A majority of individuals with rotator cuff tendinitis are able to regain complete function of their shoulder without any discomfort.
Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Symptoms
Rotator cuff tendinitis symptoms tend to worsen over time. While the patient can find relief from the initial symptoms with rest, the symptoms can later become constant. Symptoms that extend past the elbow typically indicate other issues.
Rotator cuff tendinitis symptoms include:
- Pain and inflammation in the front of the shoulder and side of the arm
- Pain triggered by lowering or lifting the arm
- A clicking sound when lifting the arm
- Pain that causes the patient to wake from sleep
- Pain when reaching behind the back
- Mobility and strength loss in the impacted arm
Tears that develop suddenly, such as those from a fall, typically cause intense pain. The patient may experience a snapping sensation and instant weakness in the upper arm.
Tears that develop gradually because of overuse also lead to pain and arm weakness. The patient may experience pain in the shoulder upon lifting their arm, or pain that travels down the arm.
The pain may initially be mild and only occur when lifting the arm overhead, such as when reaching into a cabinet. Initially, over the counter pain meds such as ibuprofen or aspirin may provide pain relief.
However, over time the patient may find that the pain is more apparent at rest and does not go away with over the counter medications. They may experience discomfort when they lie on the painful side while sleeping.
The weakness and pain in the shoulder may make it challenging to perform regular activities such as combing the hair or reaching behind the back. Notably, some rotator cuff tears do not cause pain. However, these tears may still lead to arm weakness and other symptoms.
Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Diagnosis
If the doctor suspects rotator cuff tendinitis on the basis of the patient’s symptoms, they will start by evaluating the shoulder. They will assess where the patient is feeling pain and tenderness. The doctor will also check the patient’s range of motion by asking them to move their arm in certain directions.
The doctor may also test the strength of the shoulder joint by asking the patient to press against their hand. They may assess the patient’s neck for conditions such as arthritis or a pinched nerve that can lead to symptoms that are similar to those of rotator cuff tendinitis.
The doctor may order imaging tests to confirm the rotator cuff tendinitis diagnosis and exclude any other reasons for the patient’s symptoms.
Board certified orthopedic surgeons at the Thomas & Bigler Knee & Shoulder Institute receive patients from Las Vegas, Nevada, and nearby areas for knee and shoulder treatments.If you would like to schedule an appointment or learn more about the Knee and Shoulder Institute procedures & treatments performed by Las Vegas, Nevada board-certified surgeons Steven C. Thomas, MD and Gregory T. Bigler, MD. Contact the office today click here.