Tendinitis and Rotator Cuff Tears: Causes and Treatments

21st January 2020
What is a rotator cuff? It's a muscular system that makes the movement of that shoulder joint possible. If that's where you're hurting, your pain could be caused by tendinitis or rotator cuff tears.

The rotator cuff includes a group of muscles and tendons that are attached to the bones of the shoulder joints. When these muscles become irritated, tendonitis occurs. In cases of ruptures, it can indicate rotator cuff tears. It’s convenient to know the causes of this problem and how to treat it.

The rotator cuff’s function is of utmost importance. It’s a system that supports the head of the humerus in the joint that united with the shoulder blade, also known as the scapula. Additionally, it’s responsible for controlling all shoulder movements.

The rotator cuff isn’t exempt from certain aggravations. An example of a common ailment is tendinitis, which is also known as impingement syndrome, pitcher’s shoulder, and shoulder overload syndrome.

Causes of Tendinitis

Tendinitis causes swelling, pain, and limitations in movement. It usually occurs in younger, more active people due to repetitive movements or shoulder overload. In older people, the degeneration of the tendon is usually due to aging.

There are several causes of this ailment. Having a bone spur that narrows the space between the bones is one of them. Those who work with computers or provide hairstyling services are prone to suffer from it, especially since they tend to keep their arms in the same position for a long time.

Some sports such as tennis, swimming, weightlifting, and baseball also carry risks. All of these require frequent shoulder movements that force the arm to be raised above the head.

Having bad posture for years, always sleeping on the same side, and aging are also prevalent causes of tendinitis. Furthermore, family history is also linked to rotator cuff tears.

rotator cuff rupture

Rotator Cuff Tears

When a tendon detaches, rotator cuff tears may occur. This can be due to a fall on an outstretched arm or after a sudden movement to lift something heavy.

Chronic tearing can happen slowly through the progressive wear of the tendon, which breaks at some point. If the rotator cuff is irritated at the same time, the possibilities of a rotator cuff tear can increase.

A partial rupture exists when there’s no total separation of the tendons from the bone. Physiotherapy exercises are usually the solution to increase flexibility and to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint.

A complete rupture happens when the tendon is completely detached from the bone, making it’s healing a lot more difficult. This requires surgery that involves transferring tendons or replacing the joint.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears

Intense shoulder pain indicates rotator cuff tears, which disrupts sleep and prevents certain movements such as touching your back or combing your hair. Once the arm starts weakening, it’s important to visit a doctor in order to avoid permanent loss of mobility.

Prevention Exercises

Exercises that strengthen the shoulders and regular stretching can prevent injuries. The emphasis is on working the back muscles as well as those surrounding the shoulder blade. This will improve overall muscular balance in that area of the body.

Exercises for maintaining joint amplitude are part of recovery therapy. There are some exercises that are specific to people who practice certain sports. Moreover, massages, thermotherapy, acupuncture, shock waves, and modified activities are recommended. 

exercises to prevent rotator cuff injury

Other Treatments

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain and inflammation. Homeopathy and corticosteroid injections also provide relief, although the latter should be the very last option.

Surgical intervention happens when there’s no pain relief. In these cases, arthroscopy or open surgery are options.

During these interventions, the arm becomes immobilized for a short time followed by a period of physical therapy. Recovery exercises adapt to every person’s needs and according to the type of operation performed.

Permanent arm restraints aren’t convenient. These widen the joint tissue, which becomes tense and can cause frozen shoulder syndrome.

All these decisions are made after getting a proper diagnosis, which involves an MRI, x-ray, or an ultrasound. The test selection will depend on a patient’s particular case and symptoms.

By learning more about tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, and its causes and treatments, you can enjoy faster relief. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms and visit your doctor at the right time.

  • C. Pedret; I. Iriarte; A. Carrera. Patología del manguito de los rotadores. Extraído de: https://www.medicapanamericana.com/TemasMuestra/TemaMuestra-Exp-EcografiaMusculoesqueletica.pdf
  • Soler Romagosa. F. Mapfre. Roturas parciales del manguito rotador. http://www.mapfre.com/fundacion/html/revistas/trauma/v23s1/docs/Articulo7.pdf