Rotator Cuff Tendonitis – A Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff tendonitis is an inflammation that occurs in any of the tendons of the rotator cuff. A tendon is a strong band of tissue connecting muscles to bones. In rotator cuff tendonitis, the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed, often, due to overuse or forceful overhead movements.

The Rotator Cuff Muscles

You have four cuff muscles in each of your shoulders. They are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. They attach to your arm bone (humerus) via their tendons. These muscles help you perform shoulder movements such as moving your shoulder away from your trunk and rotating your shoulder. The rotator cuff is sometimes called the SITS muscles, representing the first letters of the muscles.


Rotator cuff tendonitis often occurs because of overuse of the muscles, especially in activities that require you to move your arms overhead repeatedly. Sports at risk for rotator cuff tendonitis may include baseball (pitching), racket sports like tennis and badminton, heavy weight lifting (above the shoulder), and swimming. Carpenters and painters may also be at risk if their work requires them to reach overhead.


The most common symptom of rotator cuff tendinitis is pain in the shoulder. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may also experience
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Rotator cuff weaknees
  • Difficulty moving your injured rotator cuff

What you can do

For minor rotator cuff tendonitis, wrap an ice pack with towel and apply over your injured shoulder for 20 minutes, every 3 to 4 hours to help reduce your swelling and pain. Rest and avoid movements that cause your symptoms to worsen during the first couple of days. Taking pain medication may help relieve your symptoms. Ask your physiotherapist about exercises that you can safely perform to maintain your overall fitness and strengthen your weakened muscles.

If you have severe symptoms of pain and swelling or a deformed shoulder, you should consult your health care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Treatments for rotator cuff tendonitis may include
  • Modified rest
  • Ice application
  • Immobilization if necessary
  • Pain medication
  • Physiotherapy
Your doctor may recommend surgery to repair a severely torn tendon. After your surgery, your doctor may recommend that you undergo physiotherapy to help you improve your muscle strength and help return you to your original work or sports activity as fast and safely possible.

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