Finding a Relief Pitcher for Rotator Cuff Tendonitis – Supraspinatus Tendonitis

Understanding Supraspinatus Tendonitis

The supraspinatus is a muscle located on the top of the shoulder blade or scapula, which mechanically connects the upper arm (humerus) to the scapula. Consequently, supraspinatus tendonitis is a common injury in many sports that call for aggressive overhead movements.

One of four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff, the function of the supraspinatus is to both stabilize the shoulder joint and allow for circular motion in the shoulder. Supraspinatus tendonitis occurs when abnormal stress or trauma damages the tendon and/or its sheath, and symptoms are associated with tendon inflammation. Causes of supraspinatus tendonitis include inadequate dynamic muscle balance, overuse, and poor range of motion prior to physical activity.

Athletes involved in weightlifting, swimming, baseball, tennis, and racquetball are apt to experience supraspinatus tendonitis. Any rapid overhead motion, especially when resistance is involved, puts the supraspinatus at risk of injury. Specifically, athletes who suffer from shoulder impingement syndrome are at increased risk to develop supraspinatus tendonitis.

Signs & Symptoms of Supraspinatus Tendonitis

  • A sudden or gradual onset of pain following activities that involve shoulder movement
  • Pain felt in the front of the shoulder on palpation when the arm is rotated internally and extended (as if tucking your shirt into the back of your pants)
  • Limitation in normal range of motion
  • Weakness and/or pain when lifting the arm overhead
  • Pain while lying on the affected shoulder
  • Localized swelling/puffiness in the front of the shoulder, below the outer edge of the clavicle bone (with chronic impingement syndrome)

Professional Treatment for Supraspinatus Tendonitis

  • Apply ice to the affected shoulder 3-5 times per day.
  • If the pain and weakness become severe, use a sling to immobilize the affected shoulder.
  • Embrace a healthy nutritional diet that includes antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Utilize the latest physical therapy modalities and rehab devices to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Consult with a medical specialist to confirm the extent of the damage and implement the necessary treatment plan.
  • Implement a physical therapy strengthening program to facilitate proper healing (if surgery is not required).

Ask the Right Questions Like a Pro

Here’s what smart pro athletes would ask their sports medicine specialist to ensure a fast and safe return to the game they love:

1. Is this supraspinatus tendonitis or shoulder impingement syndrome?

2. What steps should I take to ensure a rapid and safe recovery?

3. What will my recovery time look like until I am pain-free?

4. Should I consult with a physical therapist?

5. Is any diagnostic testing or surgery required for my injury?

Elite Sports Medicine Tips from Mike Ryan

  • Rest Up – Don’t underestimate the benefits of rest with this injury to make decreased pain a part of your game plan.
  • Ice is Your friend – As with any muscle or muscle group, icing the injured area is necessary to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • P.R.I.C. – Protection, rest, immobilization, and compression are key!
  • On a Serious Note… – Do not take any injury to the shoulder lightly.
  • Use a Heavy Rotation – Resistive external rotation is the most important strengthening exercise for a safe recovery.
  • Start Small – When returning to physical activity, tread lightly.