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What is tendinopathy in the shoulder?

Shoulder tendinopathy refers to any tendon injury in your shoulder, whether it is chronic or acute. This type of injury is usually caused by overuse. There are two types of tendon problems that can happen in your shoulder: Tendonitis and tendinosis.

Types of tendinopathy in the shoulder

  • Tendonitis: Tendonitis occurs when overuse causes tendon wear and inflammation. This is an acute injury, meaning the pain is immediate, but it’s easily treated and damage is not permanent.
  • Tendinosis: Tendinosis happens when your tendon begins to degenerate and small tears appear in the tissue. This injury is more serious and brought on by chronic overuse or a sudden force that overloads the tendon. In most cases, the shoulder condition begins as tendonitis and turns into tendinosis when left untreated.

What causes shoulder tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy is commonly caused by overuse. Repeated movement like reaching over your head or throwing a ball are examples of overuse. Your rotator cuff is the most common area for a tendon injury in your shoulder because it gives your arm the ability to move in a circular motion. Repeated arm rotation often causes rotator cuff tendinopathy in baseball, softball and volleyball players.

Other less likely causes of shoulder tendinopathy are the presence of arthritis or other diseases causing shoulder inflammation. A sudden fall or force to the shoulder could also cause strain on the tendons.

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendinopathy?

  • Pain in the front of your shoulder
  • Shoulder pain when reaching behind your back
  • Shoulder pain when lifting your arm
  • Shoulder pain at night when sleeping on your injured side
  • Shoulder pain that is worse with use
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Inflammation (tendonitis)
  • Loss of range of motion
  • “Clicking” sound when you raise your arm

 How do you treat shoulder tendinopathy?

Shoulder tendinopathy will not heal on its own if you continue the activity causing it. Treating tendinopathy will include resting the affected tendon until your pain subsides.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Raleigh Orthopaedic shoulder specialists will begin by prescribing nonsurgical treatment, which will reduce pain and improve function.

  • Rest: the first step toward recovery is to avoid activities that cause pain.
  • Ice: Apply cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to keep swelling down. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Heat: Use heat to decrease stiffness.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines: Over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen reduce pain and swelling.
  • Steroid injections: Steroids such as cortisone are very effective anti-inflammatory medicine. Injecting steroids into the tendon can relieve pain.
  • Physical therapy: Specific stretching and strengthening exercises can help restore range of motion and strengthen your shoulder.

Surgical Treatment

If your condition does not improve with nonsurgical treatment, Raleigh Orthopaedic shoulder specialists may offer surgery for tendinosis.

Surgery for tendinosis is usually performed arthroscopically. During arthroscopy, your Raleigh Orthopaedic surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Raleigh Orthopaedic is Wake County’s oldest and most experienced orthopedic practice, serving the Triangle and surrounding regions of central North Carolina since 1919. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

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