Shoulder Tendonitis/Tendinitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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The rotator cuff is a key component of the shoulder joint, responsible for the movement of your arm overhead. This group of muscles is also very susceptible to overuse injuries, including tendonitis. In this short video, Casey Crisp, DC explains how to know if you may have a rotator cuff injury. He also demonstrates three simple exercises to help alleviate rotator cuff pain and prevent future injuries.


Shoulder tendonitis (or tendinitis) is an overuse injury caused by an inflammation of your rotator cuff tendons. A tendon is a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Most tendonitis is a result of a wearing down of the tendon that occurs slowly over time, much like the wearing process on the sole of a shoe, which eventually splits from overuse.

Your rotator cuff consists of four tendons that connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade. The most common tendon involved in tendonitis is the supraspinatus tendon. This tendon is positioned between the humeral head and the acromion bone, which provides a roof above the ball and socket joint.

Along with shoulder bursitis, shoulder tendonitis is a frequent cause for shoulder complaints, and it’s the most common condition responsible for shoulder tendon pain in people over the age of 40.


The most common cause of this condition is overuse. This means the tendons in the rotator cuff are overworked beyond what they can handle, and over time they eventually become damaged.

In most cases, this occurs from participating in certain sports and overhead activities that require the arm to move over the head repeatedly. Improper technique in any sport is one of the primary causes of overload on tissues including tendons, which can contribute to tendonitis.

However, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to develop this condition. People with jobs that require overhead work or heavy lifting are also at a greater risk, but any person can develop tendonitis from repetitive use of these tendons.

Other common risk factors include:

  • Poor posture, such as rounded shoulders, which some people get from leaning over a computer for extended periods of time
  • Tight muscles and tissues around the shoulder joint
  • Weakness or imbalance of the muscles in and around the shoulder


Your shoulder injury may range from mild inflammation to severe inflammation throughout most of your rotator cuff. When your rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it is also called rotator cuff tendonitis. Many daily activities, such as combing your hair or getting dressed, may become difficult.
Symptoms may include:

  • Shoulder clicking and/or an arc of shoulder pain when your arm is about shoulder height
  • Pain when lying on the sore shoulder or lifting with a straight arm
  • Pain or clicking when you move your hand behind your back or head
  • As your condition gets worse, your pain may be present even at rest


If you start to notice symptoms of this condition with pain that prevents you from functioning normally for more than a week or two, see a doctor or musculoskeletal specialist as soon as possible. While the condition is typically very treatable, the sooner you seek treatment, the greater your chances of recovering.

Traditional treatment goals include reduction in pain and inflammation, as well as preserving mobility and preventing disability and recurrence.

Treatments may include:

  • A combination of rest, wrapping, and use of ice packs for recent or severe injuries
  • Aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are used to reduce swelling
  • Cortisone medication injected into the swollen bursa
  • Physical therapy and strengthening exercises to aid the recovery, especially when it is accompanied by a frozen shoulder

Surgery may be needed if the tendon has been partially or completely torn.


When injuries develop, even simple daily tasks can become extremely difficult and painful. Athletes and active individuals can be severely impacted by the downtime associated with traditional recovery from this soft tissue injury.

As a result, many individuals suffering with tendonitis or other injuries seek Airrosti care as an alternative to long periods of rest and inactivity. Airrosti can help dramatically speed recovery and provide immediate pain relief, without drugs or injections. Most patients are able to return to normal activity within three visits, based on patient-reported outcomes.

Call Airrosti at (800) 404-6050 to see how we can help you get better faster, or click below to schedule your risk-free first appointment now.

Reviewed by Casey Crisp, Doctor of Chiropractic

Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you experience any numbness, tingling or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.

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