Health Library

Health Library

Shoulder Tendonitis

What is shoulder tendonitis?

Anatomy of the shoulder

Tendonitis of the shoulder is an inflammation of the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon. Shoulder tendonitis is usually the result of a tendon being pinched by surrounding structures. Shoulder tendonitis often occurs in certain sports that require the arm to move over the head repeatedly, such as in baseball, weightlifting, racket sports, and certain swimming strokes. The injury may vary from mild inflammation to involvement of most of the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, also known as rotator cuff tendonitis, it may get trapped under the acromion (the roof, or highest point, of the shoulder that is formed by a part of the scapula, or shoulder blade).

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of shoulder tendonitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Inability to hold arm in certain positions

  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder

The symptoms of shoulder tendonitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

How is shoulder tendonitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for shoulder tendonitis may include an X-ray (a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and/or ultrasound.

Treatment for shoulder tendonitis

Specific treatment for shoulder tendonitis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Ice or heat 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Corticosteroid injection

  • Surgery (for severe injuries)

Shoulder Tendonitis - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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