How to Treat Shoulder Tendonitis

What is Tendonitis?

Tendons are the structures in your body that attach muscles to bones. Tendons, especially at their site of attachment, are subject to significant amounts of force. High amounts of strain at these attachment points, especially repetitive strain can cause micro injuries to the tendon itself or the tendon-bone interface. When these micro injuries occur, your body reacts in attempt to heal them. This healing process begins with an inflammatory phase. In this phase cells in your body that digest broken tissue are brought to the injury site, followed by stem cells that help to rebuild new tissue. A repetitive cycle of injury and healing can cause a chronic inflammation to occur. This cycle is called tendonitis.

In the shoulder, tendonitis mostly occurs where the rotator cuff tendons attach to the top of the humerus, which is the ball part of the shoulder ball and socket type joint. It can also occur in the biceps tendon, which lives in the front of your shoulder.

Treating Shoulder Tendonitis

The treatment of shoulder tendonitis focuses on both decreasing the inflammatory response and increasing the strength and efficiency of the muscles that are related to the tendons in question. First an oral anti-inflammatory medication can be taken if not contraindicated. You can start with an over the counter medication like Advil, Motrin, or Aleve.

More important than the medication is the rehabilitation of the shoulder. Keeping your shoulder immobile because of the pain in it can be very detrimental to the health of your shoulder. If you don’t use it you may lose it. Meaning, joints that stay immobile get very stiff. Physical therapy and shoulder rehabilitation is a very important treatment for shoulder tendonitis. This helps not only to decrease the inflammation, but also help you learn how to strengthen your shoulder to prevent future episodes.

If you have taken oral medication, and have been in therapy and are still experiencing pain from the shoulder tendonitis, then sometimes a corticosteroid injection can be helpful.

The goal of treating shoulder tendonitis is to decrease your shoulder pain, increase your function, prevent further shoulder problems, and of course avoid surgery.

If you think you may be suffering from shoulder tendonitis you should see your sports medicine fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Michael Gott is a Westchester orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in sports medicine. He has also been an active member of the National Ski Patrol as well as a Member of the Windham Mountain Ski Patrol for 18 years.