Rotator cuff tendonitis

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is rotator cuff tendonitis?

Rotator cuff tendonitis is a condition that affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint. If you have tendonitis, it means that your tendons are inflamed or irritated. Rotator cuff tendonitis is also called impingement syndrome.

This condition usually occurs over time. It can be the result of keeping the shoulder in one position for a while, sleeping on the shoulder every night, or participating in activities that require extending the arm over the head.

How common is rotator cuff tendonitis?

Rotator cuff tendonitis commonly occurs in people who play sports that frequently require extending the arm over the head. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis?

The common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Pain and swelling in the front of the shoulder and side of the arm
  • Pain triggered by raising or lowering the arm
  • A clicking sound when raising the arm
  • Stiffness
  • Pain that causes you to wake from sleep
  • Pain when reaching behind the back
  • A loss of mobility and strength in the affected arm

The signs and symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis become worse over time. Initial symptoms may be relieved with rest, but the symptoms can later become constant. Symptoms that go past the elbow usually indicate another problem.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes rotator cuff tendonitis?

This condition usually occurs over time. It can be the consequence of keeping the shoulder in one position for a long period of time such as sleeping on the shoulder every night, or participating in activities that require extending the arm over the head.

Athletes playing sports that require extending the arm over the head commonly might develop rotator cuff tendonitis. This is why the condition may also be referred to as:

  • Swimmer’s shoulder
  • Pitcher’s shoulder
  • Tennis shoulder

Sometimes, rotator cuff tendonitis can occur without any known cause. Most people with rotator cuff tendonitis are able to regain full function of the shoulder without any pain.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for rotator cuff tendonitis?

There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:


As you get older, your risk of a rotator cuff tendonitis increases. Rotator cuff tears are most common in people older than 40.

Certain sports

Athletes who regularly use repetitive arm motions, such as baseball pitchers, archers and tennis players, have a greater risk of having a rotator cuff tendonitis.

Construction jobs

Occupations such as carpentry or house painting require repetitive arm motions, often overhead, that can damage the rotator cuff over time.

Family history

There may be a genetic component involved with rotator cuff tendonitis as they appear to occur more commonly in certain families.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is rotator cuff tendonitis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. You’ll be checked to see where you’re feeling pain and tenderness. Your doctor will also test your range of motion by asking you to move your arm in certain directions.

Your doctor may also test the strength of your shoulder joint by asking you to press against their hand. They may also check your neck to check for conditions such as a pinched nerve or arthritis that can cause symptoms similar to rotator cuff tendonitis.

An X-ray may be ordered to see if you have a bone spur. Your doctor may order an ultrasound or MRI to check for inflammation in the rotator cuff and to check for any tearing.

How is rotator cuff tendonitis treated?

Most people with rotator cuff tendonitis can regain full function of the shoulder without any pain after treatment.

The purpose of initial treatment of rotator cuff tendonitis is managing pain and swelling to promote healing. This can be done by:

  • Avoiding activities that cause pain
  • Applying cold packs to your shoulder three to four times per day
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen

Additional treatment may include:

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy will initially consist of stretching and other passive exercises to help restore range of motion and ease pain. Once the pain is under control, your physical therapist will teach you exercises to help regain strength in your arm and shoulder.


If your rotator cuff tendonitis is not being managed by more conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection. This is injected into the tendon to reduce inflammation, which reduces pain.


If nonsurgical treatment isn’t successful, your doctor may recommend surgery. Most people experience full recovery after having rotator cuff surgery.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage rotator cuff tendonitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

  • Using good posture while sitting
  • Avoiding lifting your arms repetitively over your head
  • Taking breaks from repetitive activities
  • Avoiding sleeping on the same side every night
  • Avoiding carrying a bag on only one shoulder
  • Carrying things close to your body

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

Review Date: August 29, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019