The rotator cuff is a group of muscles of which the tendons associated surround and stabilize the shoulder joint during most movements. As well as this it also gives you strength and fluid motion to rotate and raise the arm. If the tendons of the rotator cuff are swollen or damaged you may have rotator cuff tendinopathy. This can happen because of a previous injury or maybe a fall or sports injury that did not have the right rehabilitation process and instability is present in the shoulder.
Shoulder tendinopathy is a very progressive injury that can commonly occur with rotator cuff tears, shoulder bursitis or biceps tendinosis. Moreover, it can also exist with calcific tendons although the main causative injury is shoulder impingement.
Symptoms of shoulder tendinopathy
- Decreased shoulder strength
- Pain when laying on affected side
- Pain in the back of the shoulder
- Occasionally feeling clicking at the shoulder.
- Pain with movement of the shoulder
(typically horizontal movements)
Causes of tendinopathy
The most common cause of shoulder tendon issues is overuse of the rotator cuff rather than one injury or impact-based trauma. Typically, what happens at the shoulder is you may suffer with impingement type symptoms whereby the joint space has closed and friction and compression is being placed on these tendons. From there this friction causes irritation and in some cases inflammation of the tendons. This then can materialise into tendinopathy of the shoulder.
Risks factors leading to tendinopathy
- Static postures for long periods of time
- Lack of rest
- Working with arms above shoulder height
- Repetitive arm movements
- Heavy lifting
- Muscle imbalances
- Decreased flexibility
- Advancing age
Management and treatment
In the early phase of recovery home management can be key to reducing your symptoms. Initially you may be unable to move your arm or lay on the affected side. The first home management advice is to immobilise the shoulder as much as possible and avoid any movement that provokes your pain.
Another simple and effective step in treating this injury is icing several times a day for 15 minutes at a time. Supporting the shoulder as much as possible will contribute to a faster recovery so wearing a sling or getting a shoulder taped by a physiotherapist will provide pain relief and, in some cases, may allow you to sleep without pain.
Anti-inflammatory medication is also recommended this will aid in the reduction of swelling in the tendons and can also help reduce pain levels. Initially it is best to avoid anti-inflammatory medication in the first 48 – 72 hours as it may encourage bleeding in the damaged areas.
If you have any of the symptoms as above after 1-2 weeks with no improvement after home management you should seek medical advice from a physiotherapist. They will use techniques like soft tissue massage, stretching and strengthening to prepare the muscles for further exercise and stretching so that you can regain full function of the affected shoulder without pain.