There are several factors that can contribute to rotator cuff tendinopathy, however the most common cause is due to overpressure or overuse of the arm. Common symptoms include pain and weakness in the arm, particularly when lifting the arm over your head or rotation to the side.

Definition

Rotator cuff muscles are a group of four muscles – The tendons of the rotator cuff form a cover over the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) where it joins with the shoulder blade bone (scapula). These muscles are subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor. These muscles work together to help to move the arm, facilitate rotation of the shoulder and keep the shoulder joint stable. 

Causes

Multiple factors have been suggested as a cause of rotator cuff tendinopathy. The most common cause of rotator cuff problems is aging. As we age, particularly past the age of 50 there is a higher chance of experiencing rotator cuff tendinitis and tears. 

Over-using and under-using the arm can also cause problems in the rotator cuff. It has been suggested that the presence of an extra spur or bone on top of the shoulder joint can also be a  cause for rotator cuff tendinopathy. This extra bone is believed to cause compression on the rotator cuff tendons and that can lead to inflammation of the tendon. This is often referred to as impingement syndrome.

Psychological factors such as mood, sleep patterns and positions, diet, and hormones can also contribute to rotator cuff tendinopathy or tears. 

Signs & Symptoms

Those with rotator cuff tendinopathy often present with tenderness and pain around the rotator cuff tendons, pain with lifting arm overhead, pain when rolling onto their shoulder while sleeping and rotating the shoulder joint. Pain as a result of tendinitis usually becomes worse over time and people often experience this alongside arm weakness. 

Treatment

Rotator cuff tendinopathy can be treated with both physiotherapy and medical interventions depending on the severity and the time the tendon has been affected for.

In terms of physiotherapy; the goal is to reduce pain and inflammation and to improve range of movement and strength in the tendons. Treatment may include a period of rest, the use of a heat or ice pack, gentle massage and then later gradually improving movement and strengthening the tendons and muscles to help improve arm function. Medical management may include the use of medications, corticosteroid injections and surgery. 

How Can I Prevent Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy?

Rotator cuff tendinopathy can be prevented by practicing good posture, having a healthy lifestyle, good sleep hygiene, task modification and pacing and a strength based exercise program for your shoulders and arms. 

Melbourne Hand Therapy Can Help You

There are several treatments that may help reduce the intensity of your symptoms and relieve the pain and loss of function. Nonsurgical treatment options may include exercise, or education on activity modification. Our specially trained therapists can assist you with these interventions.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, book an appointment.

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