Rotator cuff tendonitis may be the cause of your shoulder pain. Here’s what you need to know:
Rotator cuff tendonitis is an inflammatory condition affecting one or more tendons of the rotator cuff.
This condition usually occurs over a period of time. Rotator cuff tendonitis is usually associated with repetitive overhead activity such as throwing or lifting. It may also occur as a result of injury such as a fall onto the shoulder. Rotator cuff tendonitis is probably the most common cause of shoulder pain and loss of function. This accounts for the most common cause for shoulder pain and is seen most in ages 40-70.
What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles in the shoulder that help control and rotate the arm. They are coupled with the deltoid to help stabilize the shoulder while lifting, pushing or carrying objects. Due to the high level of shoulder mobility, repetitive activities can cause wear and tear on the rotator cuff tendon. As a result, rotator cuff tendonitis occurs.
What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis?
- Pain when reaching overhead or lifting objects with a straight arm
- Clicking or popping sensation with raising the arm above shoulder height
- Pain at night from sleeping on the involved shoulder
- Pain with reaching behind the back or behind the head
- Shoulder stiffness and weakness with activity involving the shoulder
What typically causes rotator cuff tendonitis?
Most commonly, rotator cuff tendonitis is caused by repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons rather than a single incident.
- Overuse through work or exercise is the most common cause. Repetitive overhead activities may lead to strain or degeneration of the rotator cuff muscles. Consequently, shoulder pain and inflammation can occur. These activities could be in the form of recreation such as swimming or tennis playing, or work-related such as a labor intensive lifting or painting.
- Sedentary work can lead to overuse as well. Rotator cuff tendonitis is not strictly related to movement and activity. In fact, those who sit at a desk typing all day can be susceptible as well. This is usually caused by poor posture that occurs with prolonged sitting. Postural habits in combination with the smaller repetitive motions of the shoulder for using a mouse or keyboard can gradually lead to rotator cuff tendonitis.
What can be done to treat rotator cuff tendonitis?
Controlling inflammation: This is especially important in the early stages. Reducing pain and inflammation early with decrease the chances of this becoming a more chronic condition that is more difficult to treat. When pain and symptoms are more intense, icing the shoulder for 15-20 minutes can help to reduce pain.
Avoiding painful movements or activities: Listening to your body is critical. If you feel symptoms with a particular motion or activity it should be avoided. Continuing to push through painful symptoms will only make the condition worse and could lead to a more serious situation such as a tear. Avoiding painful activities is different from avoiding movement altogether. To prevent shoulder stiffness and loss of mobility, you should continue to move the shoulder through ranges that are less painful.
Get into Physical Therapy: a proper evaluation by a physical therapist will help you restore motion and function. Learning how to correct posture and strengthen the rotator cuff, along with the surrounding muscles, will minimize painful symptoms. Physical therapy will be able to provide treatments such as joint mobilization, myofascial release, and soft tissue mobility to allow for more rapid return to function. It is important to not wait. Request an appointment with a physical therapist early so that symptoms do not get out of control. The longer the symptoms last, the more difficult they are to heal. More and more people are getting benefits from physical therapy over medication and injections.
Proper nutrition and natural supplementation: Nutrition is a major factor to healing. Avoiding foods that have high glucose levels can help control pain. High levels of blood sugar can actually contribute to inflammation because of the spiked insulin response that occurs as a result. Natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices are preferred over prescribed NSAIDs. Prescription medications can have harmful side effects and may only have a temporary effect. Taking more natural supplements such as turmeric are safer alternatives. Turmeric is a great example of this. It contains curcumin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can be just as effective as prescribed medication but without the side-effects. Turmeric has also been shown to help lower cholesterol and killing bacteria as well.
In conclusion, rotator cuff tendonitis is a common condition that many suffer from. However, it is treatable through education and proper guidance from a physical therapist. Nutritional supplementation and home remedies such as icing may be better alternatives than prescribed medication and injections. Contact a physical therapist today to get on the path to recovery.
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