The shoulder is one of the most complex and frequently used joints of the body. It’s susceptible to various injuries and conditions. Among these, rotator cuff injuries stand out as a common issue that can greatly impact the functioning of the shoulder joint.
Let’s discuss the role of rotator cuffs, how tendinitis affects them, and how to treat shoulder tendinitis.
Rotator Cuff and Its Role in Shoulder
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, providing stability and allowing for a broad range of motion. These include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. All these muscles form a ‘cuff’ around the humeral head, which is the ball part of the shoulder (ball-and-socket) joint, i.e., our shoulder.
The rotator cuff plays a significant role in the movement and stability of the shoulder joint. Here’s a more detailed look at its responsibilities:
The head of the humerus (the upper arm bone) fits into the socket of the shoulder blade to form the shoulder joint. All four rotator cuff muscles – the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis – collaborate to keep this joint stable. They do this by holding the humerus firmly in the socket, especially during movement.
The supraspinatus muscle is primarily responsible for lifting the arm to the side (abduction). This motion is used in everyday activities like reaching for an item on a shelf.
The infraspinatus and teres minor muscles allow the shoulder joint to rotate externally. This is particularly important in movements like throwing a ball or reaching behind your back.
Depression of the Humerus
The subscapularis muscle depresses or lowers the humeral head. This action is crucial when the arm is raised, as it allows the humerus to move freely in the shoulder joint without impinging on other structures.
What Is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?
Rotator cuff tendinitis is a common shoulder condition characterized by the inflammation of the rotator cuff muscles and the bursa, fluid-filled sacs in the shoulder that provide lubrication. It’s often associated with repetitive overhead activities such as throwing, washing cars or windows, and many other types of repetitive motions. It may also occur because of an injury.
Symptoms include a ‘toothache’ like pain. Such pain radiates from the outer arm to several inches below the top of the shoulder. You may also feel pain in the front and top of the shoulder.
How Tendinitis Affects Shoulder Function
The inflammation of a rotator cuff muscle because of rotator cuff tendinitis can have significant impacts on the function of the shoulder. Shoulder movements can become limited, and patients may experience severe pain that interferes with daily activities.
For instance, lifting objects over the head and pushing or pulling loads can become very challenging while experiencing tendinitis. Over time, the inability to support shoulder movement leads to muscle weakness, which makes the shoulder joint more susceptible to future injury.
Treatment and Prevention
The good news is that there are various treatments available for rotator cuff tendinitis. These include:
Initial management of rotator cuff tendonitis involves reducing activities that exacerbate the pain, particularly those that require raising the arm above shoulder level. Applying ice to the affected area can also help manage pain and inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory medications, which are available over the counter, can help reduce pain and swelling. It’s important to limit repetitive activity and keep the elbow below the shoulder when using the arm to allow the shoulder to heal.
Maintaining flexibility is crucial, so beginning an exercise program specifically designed for this condition is recommended. Daily stretching while in a hot shower can also be beneficial. Carrying heavy objects with the affected arm or using shoulder-strap bags on the affected side should be avoided.
In cases where the pain becomes more severe, shoulder doctors may recommend prescription pain medications or cortisone injections. These injections can be highly effective at managing pain, especially when coupled with a home exercise program, activity modification, and applying ice. Other pain management options include heat application, ultrasound therapy, and therapeutic massage.
For patients under the age of 30 who experience a first episode of rotator cuff tendonitis and who promptly follow nonsurgical treatment protocol, rehabilitation can take two to four weeks on average. However, those with recurrent episodes and risk factors may need several months to heal. In rare cases, surgery may be required.
If symptoms persist despite conservative treatment, surgical intervention may be necessary. This could involve removing a bone spur from the acromion to increase space for the inflamed tendon, potentially preventing further damage or a complete rupture.
If an MRI reveals a complete muscle injury, surgical repair may also be needed.
Surgery for recurrent rotator cuff tendonitis might include:
- Removing a prominence or spur on the acromion’s under surface
- Inspecting the tendons to clean up and possibly repair a tear
- Removing chronically inflamed and fibrotic bursal tissue
These procedures are often performed in combination and can be done either through an open or an arthroscopic approach.
Shoulder Tendinitis Treatment Near Me in Miami Lakes and Plantation, FL
The rotator cuff muscles perform vital functions in supporting shoulder movement, but they are susceptible to damage from overuse, aging, or improper use of the shoulder joint.
If you have injured your rotator cuff and are looking for a lasting solution for your pain and other symptoms, visit us here at The Orthopaedic Hand and Arm Center. Our highly trained and compassionate shoulder surgeon, Dr. Tosca Kinchelow, is committed to diagnosing and treating all problems related to your shoulder, wrist, and arm.