The tendons connect muscle to bone and often near a joint. Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. It causes pain, inflammation, and makes movement difficult. Tendinopathy may be:
There are several tendons in the shoulder.
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Tendinopathy is most often caused by overuse of a muscle and tendon. Over time, the regular strain on the tendon causes the structure of the tendon to change.
Shoulder tendons are overused most often with:
Shoulder tendinopathy may also be caused by injury to the tendon from:
Shoulder tendinopathy is more common in people 30 years and older. It is also common in people that regularly use the arm in an overhead position or throwing motion such as:
Symptoms will develop gradually over time. Pain may not always be present but slowly increases with use.
Common signs of shoulder tendinopathy include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check tender areas. Your shoulder range of motion, and muscle strength will also be checked. Most can be diagnosed based on your symptoms and physical exam.
Bursitis can cause similar pain symptoms. Your doctor may inject a medication that numbs pain. If the pain goes away, it may suggest bursitis not tendinopathy.
Tendinopathy may take weeks or months to fully heal. Treatments include:
Full rest is usually not needed. Tendons do need a break from activities that are causing pain. A gradual return to normal activity will decrease the chance of damaging the tendon again.
Medications may help to manage pain and inflammation. Options may include:
Persistent or severe pain may need steroid medication. The medication is injected directly to the area. These injections can not be done often because frequent use can damage the tendon.
Rehabilitation will help you regain strength and range of motion in your shoulder. It may also help to prevent future injuries. Rehabilitation may include:
Severe injuries may require surgery to repair the tendon. The type of surgery will depend on the specific injuries.
To help reduce your chance of shoulder tendinopathy:
Arthroscopy Association of North America
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Biceps tendonitis. Move Forward—American Physical Therapy Association website. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=6737f4e9-e8ec-43fe-b0b9-01e86354dcea#.VfG2WUW6n-Y, Updated December 19, 2013. Accessed September 16, 2015.
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Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 3/13/2017