Rotator cuff tendinitis is a common injury in athletes who use overhead throwing or lifting motions. It may also impact people who do repetitive lifting or overhead motions, such as wallpaper hanging, construction or painting.

Our board-certified, fellowship-trained shoulder specialists provide comprehensive care from evaluation through recovery for repetitive motion and overuse shoulder injuries.

What causes rotator cuff tendinitis?

Your arm is kept in your shoulder socket by your rotator cuff, a collection of muscles and tendons (cord-like bands of tissue that connect muscles to bone) that stabilize the shoulder. The rotator cuff helps to lift and rotate the arm and to stabilize the ball of the shoulder within the joint.

Rotator cuff tendinitis occurs when the tendons and muscles that help move your shoulder joint become inflamed or irritated. This can be the result of shoulder impingement. Rotator cuff tendinitis can develop over time as the result of a minor injury, or as a result of repetitive motions that lead to inflammation.

Doctors may use different terms to describe a tendon injury including tendinitis, tendinosis or tendinopathy. Many common sports afflictions, including tennis elbow and golfer's elbow, swimmer's shoulder and jumper's knee are forms of tendinitis/tendinosis.

Rotator cuff tendinitis symptoms

Tendinitis causes pain throughout the shoulder joint extending as far as the elbow that may be manageable at first but typically worsens over time.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Decreased range of motion and strength in the shoulder
  • Difficulty lifting the arm over the head
  • Increased pain (may be described as a constant ache that radiates down the front of the arm)

Diagnosis and treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis

When a rotator cuff injury is suspected, your orthopaedic specialist will perform a physical exam and may order imaging, such as X-rays, an MRI or CT scan. Based on the results of your diagnostic tests, your provider will discuss treatment options to help alleviate your pain and restore maximum shoulder function.

Treatment for rotator cuff tendinitis is often nonsurgical, and may include rest, medications to reduce inflammation, physical therapy and cortisone injections. If your shoulder does not improve with these treatments, surgery may be recommended.

The experienced orthopaedic providers at Main Line Health will follow you through every step of recovery to help you get back to the activities you love.

To schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.