Rotator Cuff Tendonitis (Tendinitis)
Tendons are bands of connective tissue that join your muscles to your bones. This connection allows you to move your body when you contract your muscles. The rotator cuff (also called the rotor cuff) is made up of 4 tendons located at the outside edge of your shoulder that form a "cuff" around the glenohumeral joint. These tendons, along with other soft tissue in the joint cavity, work together to attach the humerus (upper arm bone) to the scapula. When the shoulder muscles contract, these tendons; the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor and the subscapularis, allow your shoulder to complete its complex set of movements and move your arm.
Tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) is inflammation in a tendon. When you are diagnosed with rotator cuff tendonitis, it means that one or more of the four tendons in the rotator cuff has become inflamed. The inflammation of tendonitis is usually a result of tiny tears or repetitive irritation of the tendon.
There are 2 types of rotator cuff tendonitis; acute and chronic. Acute tendonitis refers to inflammation that comes on suddenly, usually from a shoulder injury, such as a fall causing dislocation, overloading it during exercise, or lifting something too heavy overhead.
Chronic tendonitis develops over time and generally results from long term repetitive use of one or some of the rotator cuff tendons. Common activities that cause chronic tendinitis in the rotor cuff are activities like weight lifting, painting, and repetitive throwing in sports. With both types of tendinitis, the condition can be very painful and will likely have periods where it flares up, and periods when it feels somewhat better after it has been rested or the repetitive motion that irritates it has been stopped.
Although tendinitis can occur in any of the rotator cuff tendons, the supraspinatus tendon is most susceptible to injury. Due to its location at the top of the shoulder, between the joint cavity and the acromion, the tendon is at risk of irritation, wear and tear, and/or impingement. It functions to allow the arm to abduct (move away from the body) and is used for many daily activities which can lead to chronic tendinitis.
Rotator cuff tendinitis is also known as Swimmer's Shoulder, Pitcher's Shoulder or Tennis Shoulder.
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
The symptoms of chronic rotator cuff tendinitis usually begin with mild pain in the shoulder that gradually becomes worse. Acute symptoms will come on more suddenly. If you have rotator cuff tendinitis, some possible symptoms may be:
- Pain in the top and front of your shoulder that becomes worse with overhead activity. Initially, the pain is felt during activities only but eventually you will feel it even while you rest your shoulder.
- Limited range of motion in your shoulder's glenohumeral joint.
- Tenderness and a burning sensation in your shoulder.
- The feeling that the small muscles in the shoulder do not make small adjustments smoothly, or pain that results from these small motions.
- Difficulty sleeping at night due to pain, especially when lying on the affected shoulder.
- Difficulty with simple movements such as brushing hair, putting on your shirt or jacket, reaching the arm above shoulder height.
- A feeling of weakness in the shoulder, especially with pushing and overhead movements.
Causes of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
- A hooked acromion at birth increases your risk of rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis as they can become impinged in the subacromial space.
- Slouching forward can narrow the space your tendons have to move in the shoulder creating excess pressure on them. This can irritate the tendons and/or interrupt the blood supply resulting in breakdown of the tissue.
- Repetitive overhead motion such as serving a tennis ball, pitching a ball, hammering, or painting above the head.
- Lifting heavy objects or free weights above shoulder height.
- Aging; as we get older, our tendons become more brittle and therefore more prone to injury.
- A weak rotator cuff can cause misalignment, putting unequal stress on the tendons.
- Shoulder injuries or having associated conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disease.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Treatments - What You Can Do!
If you have a rotator cuff tendinitis rest is highly recommended. Avoid activities that cause pain or may have caused the inflammation and begin cold compression treatments as soon as possible.
The trick to healing your rotator cuff tendinitis and getting your shoulder back in the best possible condition you can is getting it to heal with minimal scar tissue - something our BFST® wraps are great at! Even with optimum healing, there is always less elasticity in previously injured rotator cuff tendons. However, if you heal your tendinitis properly and treat scar tissue build up, your chance of re-injury or chronic shoulder conditions later on is much lower than average.
There are healing tools that can help treat your supraspinatus tendonitis and speed up the healing process so you can get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury. Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®) will treat scar tissue and promote blood flow to heal your tendonitis faster and more completely than any other methods available.
Freezie Wrap® Cold Therapy
To decrease inflammation and relieve the pain of rotator cuff tendinitis doctor's recommend cold compression therapy. For acute tendinitis, cold compression therapy within the first 48 - 72 hours following the injury and after any further irritation is important to limit the amount of damage done to your tissue. Cold compression therapy will relieve pain and swelling of both chronic and acute tendinitis and will reduce, or even eliminate, the need for NSAIDs.
The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® is the cold compression tool you need to treat your supraspinatus tendon and other shoulder tissue in an effective and convenient way.
Cold compression therapy works by interrupting and slowing nerve and cell function in the injured area and reducing swelling that can block blood vessels. This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through your tendon and tissue cells begin to break-down. Without cold compression therapy cellular break-down and tissue damage continues as the cells do not get the oxygen they need to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your supraspinatus tendon, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to get rid of rotator cuff tendinitis faster and with less pain!
The deep cooling effect provided by the Shoulder Freezie Wrap® slows cell metabolism thereby reducing cellular break-down and tissue damage. Furthermore, because the cold wraps gently numb the nerves, the wraps also reduce pain!
The Shoulder Freezie Wrap® uses a supercharged cooling gel pack, that chills in the fridge, not in the freezer like ice or other freezer packs, giving you deep cold therapy without the risk of 'cold burns' or cryoburn. The medical-grade wrap keeps the cold directly off your skin preventing cryoburn while delivering cold right where you need it.
Click here to learn more about Cold Compression Freezie Wraps®
During the healing process, scar tissue builds on the supraspinatus tendon. This scar tissue can cause the tendon to thicken, decreasing the area in the subacromial space and increasing the chance of impingement.
In addition, scar tissue can bind the tendons and ligaments together within the joint capsule and surrounding the rotator cuff. The inflexible scar tissue limits the movement of these tendons and ligaments that were once elastic and allowed the shoulder its large range of motion. As a result, movement of the entire joint is limited making it difficult to lift your arm or to reach for objects. If left untreated, the shoulder may 'freeze' (a condition called frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis) altogether making movement impossible. At the very least, scar tissue leaves your tendon weaker than a healthy tendon, leaving your rotator cuff at greater risk of further deterioration and possible tearing.
Once the inflammation of your tendinitis has been reduced, nourishing and strengthening the supraspinatus tendon and surrounding area is recommended. Using Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy™ will speed your recovery and heal your rotator cuff more completely preparing it for strengthening exercises. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out which exercises are appropriate for your situation.
Inferno Wrap® Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy
After severe inflammation and swelling is reduced, begin treating your rotator cuff with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy (BFST®). BFST® increases the amount of blood that flows naturally to your shoulder to nourish your soft tissue to speed healing.
The rotator cuff naturally receives a limited blood supply and when you stop moving your shoulder because it hurts the blood flow is reduced even further, limiting your body's natural ability to heal itself.
By treating your rotator cuff tendon with BFST® you can increase your body's blood supply to the shoulder and increase your body's natural healing power.
An Inferno Wrap® is the tool you need to treat your sore shoulder because it speeds healing and relaxes the surrounding muscles. With BFST®, tissues are safely and gently stimulated. Your body responds with a rapid increase in blood flow to the rotator cuff, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to injured tissue cells to promote healing. Our Shoulder Inferno Wrap® provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief and healing with no side effects.
In addition, the improved blood flow whisks away dead cells and toxins that have built up from your rotator cuff tendinitis. When you stop moving your arm and shoulder due to shoulder pain, your muscles and other tissue can become weaker and dead cells and toxins in the area can cause further tissue deterioration - this can lead to atrophy. By clearing the area of toxins and increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and other tissue, the risk of atrophy (muscle weakness and/or deterioration) is greatly reduced. Keeping your upper arm, shoulder and rotator cuff tissue as healthy as possible throughout the healing process will allow you to improve shoulder strength again once your pain has gone and your tendinitis has healed.
Click here to learn more about how BFST® and Inferno Wraps® work.
With these simple and safe home treatment therapies - Freezie Wrap® cold compression therapy and BFST® therapy, you will notice significantly reduced pain and an incredible improvement in your rotator cuff range of motion.
Remember: We recommend that you consult your doctor and/or physiotherapist before using any of our outstanding products, to make sure they're right for you and your condition.
During your recovery, you may have to modify and/or eliminate any activities that cause pain or discomfort in your rotator cuff area until your pain and inflammation settle, and you gain more mobility and strength in your shoulder. The more diligent you are with your treatment and rehabilitation, the faster you will see successful results!