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Management of rotator cuff tendinitis

The rotator cuff is group of four tendons covering the humeral head that controls rotation of the arm and elevation. These muscles and their tendons provides movement and strength to the shoulder for all waist-level, shoulder-level or above activities. Rotator cuff tendinitis is characterized as inflammation of groups of muscles found in the shoulders and lubricating mechanism called the bursa. This condition is usually common among people playing sports that require extending the arm overhead.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis

  • A clicking sound can be heard when raising the arm
  • Pain and swelling in the front area of the shoulder and the sides of the arm
  • Stiffness of the area
  • Pain can be felt when raising or lowering the arm
  • Pain that causes interruption in sleeping
    Rotator cuff tendinitis

    Pain and swelling in the front area of the shoulder and the sides of the arm

  • Limited mobility and strength in the affected arm
  • Pain when reaching behind the back


  • Using the shoulder for many years can cause damage on the rotator cuff. As the person ages, performing daily activities can result to changes in the rotator cuff such as normal wear and tear on the tendons and diminished supply of blood.
  • Repetitive overhead activities such as playing tennis, swimming or painting can result to rotator cuff injuries. Normal motions performed for long periods of time can result to stress or damage the rotator cuff.


  • Rest the affected area at least for a couple of days. Minimize engaging in repetitive movement or strenuous activities that requires the arm to move above the head.
  • When resting, keep the shoulder still or immobilized. Avoid putting the arm in a sling to prevent the area from stiffening that can result to a frozen shoulder.
  • Avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort on the shoulder such as playing tennis and golf or carrying heavy bags of groceries.
  • Take the prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen to lessen the pain.
  • Apply an ice pack on the affected shoulder for the first 48 hours to lessen the swelling and pain. Avoid placing ice directly on the skin to prevent the condition from worsening. Wrap the ice pack in a thin towel before placing on the affected area for at least 20 minutes at a time for 2-3 times every day. Apply the ice pack on the area after performing shoulder exercises to prevent swelling.
  • After 2-3 days, apply a warm compress on the area and start moving the shoulder. Soak a face towel in hot water, wring out the excess water and place on the affected shoulder and swing the arm back and forth like a pendulum. Another alternative is performing exercises for the affected shoulder while standing under a warm shower. Heat increases the flow of blood in the muscles and tendons and lessens the inflammation. Repeat these exercises at least 2-3 times every day to prevent stiffness of the joint.

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