The Rotator Cuff is a tendon, formed of a system of muscles around the socket joint of the shoulder, and intended to support and stabilise the ball of the humerus while co-ordinating the arm’s movement. Four muscles make up the Rotator Cuff – the infraspinatus, the subscapularis, the teres minor and the supraspinatus. Although all four fulfil a different individual role, their main function is working together to aid in rotation and lifting of the arm.

Repetitive strain on the shoulder, often caused by frequent actions as innocuous as throwing a basketball, dusting a high shelf, or weight-lifting, can lead to inflammation of the Rotator Cuff. The muscles spend so much time rubbing against the surrounding bones that it becomes swollen and irritated. As a result, it can cause pain across the top of the shoulder when extending, lifting or rotating the arm. In more extreme cases, wear and tear on the muscles of the Cuff can be so intense that one or more of them tears, causing moderate to severe pain, and often requiring surgery to correct.

How do I recognise Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

Damage to the Rotator Cuff is characterised by shoulder pain, weakness and loss of movement in the arm. The severity of these symptoms is dependent on the extent of the injury, with minor inflammation causing discomfort only when the arm is lifted above the head, and more serious injuries potentially even disrupting sleep.

If you experience pain around the joint of your shoulder, even if you haven’t noticed the (usually) accompanying weakness and reduced freedom of movement, there is a chance you may have damaged your Rotator Cuff. If you notice more than one of these symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

How will Supraspinatus Tendonitis impact my daily life?

Torn Rotator Cuffs will not heal on their own. On the contrary, if left untreated, continual use of the damaged arm will only exacerbate the symptoms, and cause the tear to widen. If your occupation requires you to extend, rotate or lift your arms, then depending on the severity of your injury, you may even find it renders you incapable of working effectively.

How can I treat Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

In cases where a tear in the muscle is not present, it is possible to treat the wound without the need for surgery. Physiotherapy is effective in treating both acute and chronic Supraspinatus Tendonitis, provided there is no tear – connective tissue manipulation can ease the muscles back into full use, without straining the muscles. When combined with connective tissue manipulation, manual lymph drainage can help to increase movement of lymph – a clear fluid that exudes from strained or injured tissue – away from the area.

Ice packs can also help to reduce swelling, alleviate pain and decrease bleeding in the, although ice should never be applied directly to the skin, and anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed or purchased from a pharmacy.

After careful reduction of symptoms, gentle exercises can begin, in order to gradually restore the injured area to full movement. It is important not to strain yourself during this stage, as over-exerting a damaged rotator cuff can set back recovery considerably, and may even damage the shoulder further.

In the most serious cases, surgery may be necessary to fully repair a torn Rotator Cuff, or if physiotherapy is ineffective. A surgeon’s aim in rotator cuff surgery is generally to enlarge the Subacromial space, reducing the chance of muscles rubbing against bone and causing irritation.

How I do prevent Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

Simply being careful while working out or playing sports is a good starting point for avoiding damage to the tendons and muscles of your shoulders. Warming up and down before and after physical activity will help to increase flexibility, further reducing the chances of straining a tendon or wearing down a muscle while exercising. If you plan on increasing the amount of physical activity you take part in, ensure that you do it gradually, as a sudden rise in muscle strain is a common cause of supraspinatus tendonitis.

Author’s Bio

Dan Hart has a history of writing physiotherapy and chiropractic-based articles, and has been an expert practitioner of physiotherapy for several years. For more information on Supraspinatus Tendonitis, please e-mail or visit