Shoulder Tendinopathy

The tendons connect muscle to bone and often connect near a joint. Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. It can cause pain and swelling and makes it difficult to move. Tendinopathy may be: There are several tendons in the shoulder. They are attached to muscles of the rotator cuff and the biceps muscle of the arm.

  • Causes

    Tendinopathy is generally caused by overuse of a muscle and tendon. Over time, the strain on the tendon causes the structure of the tendon to change.

    Shoulder
    tendons are overused most often with:

    • Repeated reaching overhead
    • Repeated throwing

    Shoulder tendinopathy may also be caused by:

    • Inflammation disease in the shoulder such as arthritis
    • Trauma to the shoulder or fall on outstretched arms.
    • Normal wear and tear associated with age.

  • Definition

    The tendons connect muscle to bone and often connect near a joint.
    Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. It can cause pain and swelling and makes it difficult to move. Tendinopathy may be:

    • Tendonitis—inflammation of the tendon. (less common)
    • Tendinosis—tiny tears in the tendon with no significant inflammation. (more common)

    There are several tendons in the shoulder. They are attached to muscles of the rotator cuff and the biceps muscle of the arm.

    Shoulder Tendons
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check tender areas. Your shoulder range of motion, and muscle strength will also be checked.

    Your doctor may need to get detailed images of your shoulder. This may be done if the injury is severe or to rule out other problems. Images can be taken with:

    • MRI scan
    • Arthroscopy
      —a surgery that is done with a scope
    • X-rays
    • CT arthrography—specialized x-ray

    Bursitis can cause similar pain symptoms. Your doctor may inject an anesthetic medication. If the pain goes away it may suggest bursitis not tendinopathy.

  • Prevention

    To protect the shoulder from injury:

    • Do regular
      resistance exercises to strengthen
      the muscles.
    • Use proper athletic training methods.
    • Do not increase exercise duration or intensity more than 10% per week.
    • Avoid overusing your arm in an overhead position.
    • Alter job duties to avoid overhead activity.
    • Do not ignore or try to work through shoulder pain.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of developing shoulder tendinopathy include:

    • Age: 30 and over

    • Always using the arm in an overhead position or throwing motion, as in:

      • Tennis or other racquet sports
      • Swimming
      • Baseball
      • Jobs (eg, overhead assembly work, butchering, or using an overhead pressing machine)

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms develop gradually over time. Pain usually slowly increases with use.

    Tendinopathy may cause:

    • Pain (a dull ache) in the shoulder and upper arm
    • Pain at night, especially when sleeping on the injured side
    • Pain when trying to reach for a back zipper or pocket
    • Pain with overhead use of the arm
    • Shoulder weakness, usually due to pain with effort
    • Shoulder stiffness with some loss of motion

  • Treatment

    Tendinopathy and the associated pain may take months to resolve. It can be frustrating but it is important to follow through with recommended treatment.
    Treatments include: