Supraspinatus tendonitis is a common injury in many sports that include aggressive overhead movements. 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.
The function of the supraspinatus is to both stabilize the shoulder joint and to allow the shoulder to move in a circular motion. It is also one of the four muscles which make up the rotator cuff. Supraspinatus tendonitis occurs when the tendon and/or the sheath of the tendon becomes damaged as a result of abnormal stress or trauma. Symptoms of tendonitis in the supraspinatus are associated with inflammation of the tendon. Inadequate dynamic muscle balance, overuse, and poor range of motion prior to physical activities are all causes of supraspinatus tendonitis.
Sports commonly associated with supraspinatus tendonitis are weight lifting, swimming, baseball, tennis, and racquetball. Any rapid overhead motion, and especially those where resistance against this movement is involved, are activities which put the supraspinatus at risk of injury. Athletes who suffer from a shoulder impingement syndrome are considered to be at increased risk for developing supraspinatus tendonitis.
Signs & Symptoms of Supraspinatus Tendonitis
- A sudden or gradual onset of pain following activities that involve shoulder movement.
- With the arm internally rotated and extended, as if tucking your shirt into the back of your pants, palpation of the front of the shoulder will demonstrate a painful spot on the front of the shoulder where the supraspinatus anchors into the upper arm bone.
- Limitation in normal range of motion.
- Weakness and/or pain when lifting the arm overhead.
- Pain while lying on the affected shoulder.
- With a chronic impingement syndrome, the shoulder will demonstrate some localized swelling/puffiness in the front of the shoulder below the outer edge of the clavicle bone.
Professional Treatment for Supraspinatus Tendonitis
- Apply ice to the affected shoulder 3-5 times per day.
- If the pain and weakness become severe, immobilize the affect shoulder using a sling.
- Embrace a healthy nutritional diet to include natural antioxidants and natures’ anti-inflammatories with fruits and vegetables.
- Utilize the latest physical therapy modalities and rehab devices to reduce swelling and decrease pain.
- Consultation with a medical specialist to confirm the extent of the damage and to implement the necessary treatment plan.
- If surgery is not required then a physical therapy strengthening program should facilitate proper healing.
Asking the Right Questions Like a Pro
Here’s what a smart pro athlete would ask his/her sports medicine specialists to ensure a fast and safe return to sports:
- Is this supraspinatus tendonitis or shoulder impingement syndrome?
- What steps must I take to ensure a rapid and safe recovery?
- What do you consider to be my recovery time until I will be pain-free?
- Would I benefit from consulting with a physical therapist?
- Will I require any diagnostic testing or surgery?
Elite Sports Medicine Tips from Mike Ryan
- Rest Up – Don’t underestimate the benefits of rest with this injury if a decrease in pain is part of your game plan.
- Ice is Your friend – As with inflammation of any muscle or muscle group, icing the injured area will act to reduce pain and inflammation.
- P.R.I.C. – Protection, rest, immobilization, and compression!
- Take it Seriously – Any injury to the shoulder should not be taken lightly.
- Heavy Rotation – Resistive external rotation will be the most important strengthening exercise for your safe recovery.
- Start Small – When returning to your physical activities, progress wisely.