Brief Outline of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Rotator cuff tendinitis results from the irritation and inflammation of the tendons of the shoulder in the area underlying the acromion. The condition is sometimes known as pitcher’s shoulder though it is a common injury in all sports requiring overhead arm movements, including tennis, volleyball, swimming and weight lifting, in addition to baseball.

Anatomy and physiology

The shoulder (or glenohumeral) joint is a ball-and-socket structure formed by the top portion of the arm bone (humerus) associated with the scapula or shoulder-blade. The rotator cuff aligns the head of the humerus into the scapula. Occasionally, following repetitive use of the rotator cuff, the humerus can ride up to pinch the cuff and irritate the fluid-filled subacromial bursa that acts to cushion the rotator cuff and acromion/humerus.

Cause of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Inflammation of the tendons of the shoulder from tennis, baseball, swimming, etc. Irritation of the bursa of the rotator cuff from repetitive overhead arm motion. Pre-existing disposition including anatomical irregularity.

Signs and symptoms

Weakness or pain with overhead activities, brushing hair, reaching, etc. Popping or cracking sensation in the shoulder. Pain in the injured shoulder, particularly when lying on it.

Complications if left unattended

Rotator cuff tendinitis can worsen without attention as the tendons and bursa become increasingly inflamed. Motion becomes more limited and tendon tears can cause further, in some cases, chronic pain. Further, the acromion may react to prolonged irritation with the production of bone spurs, which contribute to further irritation.

Treatment

Rehabilitation and prevention

Following the rest and healing of the injured shoulder, physical therapy should be undertaken to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff. Occasionally, injections are required to reduce pain and inflammation. Moderation of rotator cuff use, adequate recovery time between athletic activities, and strength training can all help avoid the injury.

Long-term prognosis

Given proper rest as well as physical therapy and (where needed) injections, most athletes enjoy a full recovery from this injury. Should a serious tear of the rotator cuff tissue occur, surgery may be required, although a recovery to pre-injury levels of activity is usually expected.

Rotator Cuff Tear

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