Tendonitis in the Shoulder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Tendonitis in the shoulder is a very annoying for those that suffer from it. In the most severe cases, it limits movement and causes severe pain.
Tendonitis in the Shoulder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Having tendonitis in the shoulder may disable the patient’s daily activity for several days. Sometimes, when the case is serious, it can take weeks for normal mobility and adequate strength to be restored.

Tendonitis is when a tendon in the body becomes inflamed and enlarged because of it. The affected area gets bigger because of liquids. This also results in the person losing strength and functionality.

It’s worth clarifying that a tendon is a fiber structure that relates a bone to a muscle, or muscle group. That is, the tendons bind the muscle to the bone tissue to develop the intended movement.

Tendonitis in the shoulder, like the other forms of this lesion, responds to an overload of the anatomy by intensive or repetitive use. The problem with this particular joint is that it tends to reoccur, and the person with it should always take precautions.

More than half of all humans will have tendonitis once in their lives. This denotes the importance of the disorder. Tendonitis in the shoulder is one of the most frequent.

Causes of tendonitis in the shoulder

Excessive force or heavy, repetitive use of a tendon can lead to inflammation. For tendonitis in the shoulder, the overused joint will be the scapular waist, which links the humerus, the collarbone, and the shoulder blade.

In the elderly, osteoarthritis must be included as a factor. When the joints become stiff over time, it’s easier to get tendonitis in the shoulder with less effort.

However, not only do the bones suffer from old age; the tendons also become atrophic and harden over the years. With less elasticity, it’s logical that a stretch leads to inflammation.

A special risk group is the sports people who use the upper parts of their bodies in their training. Rowing, basketball, boxing, baseball, and other sports are prone to shoulder tendonitis.

Thus, the distinction between sports and degenerative disorders has emerged. The first happens in young people who are athletes in sports that involve a lot of shoulder movement. The latter are elderly patients with a history of osteoarthritis.

A woman with a sore shoulder.
Tendonitis in the shoulder is painful and usually occurs due to sudden and repetitive movements.

Continue reading: Relieve your shoulder pain with these homemade recipes

Symptoms of tendonitis in the shoulder

Once tendonitis settles in the shoulder, the first symptom is pain with certain movements. They don’t need to be large movements; pain can occur with small turns of the joint.

There is also sensitivity in the affected area. It hurts to the touch, especially in the course of the most inflamed tendons. Tight clothing can cause irritation and acute discomfort.

The pain is worse at night because of the way we sleep. The way the shoulder is positioned means there’s more pressure on it, and the discomfort interrupts rest. The best advice for patients is to sleep in a sitting position to decrease discomfort.

Functional impotence is perhaps the most impacting. A shoulder with tendonitis can’t stretch, nor can it take reach close objects. It makes it difficult to prepare food, practice exercises, get dressed, tie up shoes, and more.

A man with a sore shoulder.
For a young athlete, injury is a problem in the continuity of training


Treatment of shoulder tendonitis is conservative in most cases. The aim is to avoid arthroscopic surgery and instead trying to treat it with physiotherapy.

Each patient has a specific plan to follow. An elderly person with osteoarthritis isn’t the same as a young athlete injured in training. The possibilities for the future are different.

Using anti-inflammatories is at the discretion of the treating physician and the patient. They reduce swelling in the area, but if they’re not taken alongside physiotherapy, rest, and an ice pack, they won’t be as effective. They’re suitable for the beginning of the condition, to improve feeling.

Among anti-inflammatory drugs, there are two options: Steroid and non-steroidal. The first are corticosteroids, which should have a limited use, as regards days and doses, to avoid adverse effects. The latter allows more flexibility, but also have adverse reactions linked to the digestive system.

Tendonitis in the shoulder is different at every age

It should be clear that tend0nitis in the shoulder is different for everyone. Sometimes it goes unnoticed and doesn’t affect the patient’s daily life; it can heal itself after two weeks without being noticed.

It’s different for sports people, because they have to limit their training and activity. Or an office worker that sits at a desk all day; they can’t work because of the pain of the sitting position.

If you suffer from tendonitis, it’s best to consult a doctor. They’ll perform some diagnostic tests and, if necessary, refer you to a physiotherapist to work out a session schedule.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Marzoa, I. Ferreiro, et al. “Tratamiento rehabilitador del hombro doloroso.” Rehabilitación 39.3 (2005): 113-120.
  • Bravo Acosta, Tania, et al. “Valor de la ecografía musculoesquelética en el dolor agudo de hombro.” Revista Cubana de Medicina Física y Rehabilitación 8.2 (2017): 256-258.
  • Jiménez-Martín, A., et al. “Tratamiento de la tendinitis calcificante de hombro mediante artroscopia.” Trauma Fund MAPFRE 23 (2012): 32-37.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.