Though this condition is common among athletes of all ages and experience levels, anybody can develop Shoulder Tendonitis (also known as Tendinitis) due to an accident like a fracture or dislocation, repetitive motions, or simple wear-and-tear that comes with the aging process.
Other similar shoulder injuries or ailments include shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tear, as well as bursitis from an inflamed bursa sac.
The result is inflammation and irritation in the tendon, the thick fibrous cords that attach the shoulder muscles to the bone.
People dealing with this kind of inflammation generally feel pain down the upper arm and at the tip of the shoulder, especially when they twist their arm or lift it above their head.
Severe, untreated cases can cause chronic pain and make it difficult for a person to get restful sleep, and even manage normal, day-to-day activities or professional responsibilities.
What Causes Shoulder Tendonitis?
A very compact joint, the shoulder is where bone, muscles, tendons and fluid-filled sacs that help lessen friction, called bursa, rotate through a tight archway of bone and ligament.
When the arm is raised, this area narrows and can potentially begin to impinge and pinch the associated tendons, leading to inflammation.
Sustained impingement in the shoulder joint is not only uncomfortable and painful, but it can also create problems in other areas, such as tearing the tendons in the rotator cuff.
Another common issue is that the bursa sac, there to ease friction, can grow irritated and inflamed, which is called Bursitis.
What are Some Contributing Factors to Shoulder Impingement?
There are a variety of issues that can cause a person to develop shoulder tendinitis or impingement.
A traumatic injury that leads to a dislocation in the shoulder or a fracture of the surrounding bones can lead to degenerative changes in the joint’s physical structure.
This may increase the likelihood that the tendons are being impinged and strained.
Likewise, young people, teenagers, and even maturing 20-somethings may still be developing and have loose shoulder joints, causing instability and eventually inflammation and pain.
The most common reason for this type of shoulder tendon pain, though, is overuse of the shoulder joint as a result of repetitive motions.
These are movements that virtually everyone does on occasion. But athletes and some workers, especially in manufacturing, construction, mechanical repair, and other industries that require intense physical activity, perform these types of movement on a regular basis.
These are motions like some of the following:
- Swim stroke
- Overhead serve in tennis
- Pitching a ball
- Casting a fishing line
- Overhead weight training, like in Olympic style weightlifting
- Stocking heavy inventory in overhead shelves
- Working with the arms above the head for extended periods, like for example on cars or other machinery perched on overhead lifts
While overuse in all of these cases can cause shoulder tendonitis, it may also be a matter of poor technique that places a greater strain on the joint than is necessary.
What are Common Shoulder Tendonitis Symptoms?
To give a better diagnosis or get a closer look at any damage to the soft tissue or bone in the shoulder joint, an orthopedist or sports physician will often request X-rays or an MRI, along with a thorough physical exam of the area.
There are, however, some common shoulder tendonitis symptoms people experience that can include:
- Pain in the upper arm and shoulder
- Weakness in the shoulder joint
- Swelling, related to inflammation in the tendon and possibly the bursa sac
- Stiffness or tightness, especially when lifting or twisting the arm
Shoulder Tendonitis or Impingement Treatment
In the case of minor irritation or pain in the shoulder joint, the best thing to do is stop performing any motion that causes pain and allow the inflammation to recede.
The most common forms of shoulder tendonitis or impingement treatment methods include:
Resting the shoulder is necessary to allow the swelling to go down and give the muscles, tendons, and affected area time to repair and heal.
2. Icing the Affected Area
Using an ice pack on the shoulder area for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day, will help to reduce any swelling.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen will often ease a small amount of discomfort and promote a reduction of inflammation.
Steroid injection might be necessary for some people depending on the type and location of injury they are experiencing.
4. Physical Therapy and Exercise
Physical therapy is also useful. People recovering from shoulder tendonitis or bursitis can learn particular exercises and stretches that usually improve strength and flexibility with the hopes of decreasing stress on the healing tendon.
5. Use Proper Techniques
Learning proper techniques for whatever the repetitive motion might be is key.
It’s also necessary to develop warm-up habits that move the shoulder through the range of motions before putting the joint to work in sports or other strenuous activities.
Surgery may be necessary in more serious cases, such as a rotator cuff tear. As with any surgical procedure, there will be a prolonged period of recovery before undergoing physical therapy.
Later when the affected area has healed, normal physical activity can be resumed.
7. EPAT Therapy for Shoulder Tendonitis
EPAT Therapy, also known as Shockwave Treatment, is a non-invasive method for increasing the speed of healing for injuries such as rotator cuff or shoulder tendonitis.
It also has the added benefit of limiting tendinitis-related downtime.
This regenerative treatment helps injured muscles and tendons heal faster by delivering impulse pressure waves deep within the damaged soft tissue.
With each session, deep muscle stimulation increases blood flow to the shoulder tendon and reduces inflammation.
Because EPAT Therapy is non-surgical, there is no anesthesia required, no scarring, and no risk of infection. In some cases, athletes or essential workers can actually undergo treatment sessions while still maintaining high levels of performance.
STORZ Medical has been manufacturing state of the art medical device equipment since 1941, and offer the leading EPAT Therapy Shockwave machines available from Medical Wave.
This technology is quickly being adopted by world-class sports medicine physicians for speeding the healing process and improving patient outcomes.