Supraspinatus Tendonitis

Facts about Supraspinatus Tendonitis


There are certain sports in which the condition called supraspinatus tendonitis is most likely to occur.  The movements required for pitchers in the game of baseball or participants of freestyle swimming, tennis and weight lifting commonly experience this painful state of the shoulder joint.


The mechanics of the shoulder joint


With the greatest range of motion on the entire body, the shoulder joint is a spectacular example of synergy.  Bones, tendons, muscles, nerves, ligaments and blood vessels all do their own part while working together in unison to provide the shoulder the ability to move in any direction.  A uniquely designed ball and socket joint enables the shoulder to be rotated in circles, swung out to the front, back or side as well as lifted over the head in every direction.  Each of these motions is dependent upon the coordination of the numerous muscles and tendons that, through contractions and relaxation, allows the movement.


Supraspinatus muscle


Several groups of muscles are in place to assist with the shoulder agility.  One of the main muscles in this area is called the supraspinatus muscle, positioned at the top of the shoulder and extending from the bottom of the neck over the shoulder top to the arm.  It works along with three other muscles to form the rotator cuff to stabilize the shoulder.  The supraspinatus muscle comes into action when the arm is raised straight out to the side and also during the action of throwing; specifically in the release of the item being thrown.  As such, the muscle is often unknowingly underdeveloped and overused; a situation that frequently leads to injury.


Muscles like the supraspinatus will react to overuse by becoming inflamed.  It is also susceptible to injury through a direct fall onto the shoulder.  Immediate pain is generally experienced, followed by weakness at the tip of the shoulder when the individual attempts to raise the arm sideways and rotate it outwards.  The pain continues along the muscle and may also traverse down the arm.  Swelling and tenderness are also experienced in most cases and, in the most serious of situations, the arm may not respond to lifting over the head.  This condition is called supraspinatus tendonitis.


Treating tendonitis


Immediate action is necessary for this type of injury.  The most important action is actually inaction; fully resting the shoulder so that no pain is experienced.  Anti-inflammatory medications are always prescribed to curb the inflammation of the tendon effectively.  Applying ice packs indirectly to the area will help to reduce the swelling that occurs.  A series of strengthening exercises through structured physical therapy should be performed, beginning very slowly and gradually building up in intensity and frequency to redevelop the health of the shoulder muscle.


When these treatments are not effective in relieving the pain and increasing the mobility, further medical action will be required.  Electrotherapy, deep tissue massage and cortisone shots may be needed to help resolve the inflammation of the supraspinatus muscle and retain the normal range of motion of the rotator cuff.  In the most serious of cases, surgery may be required to repair small tears of the muscle itself and to remove chronically inflamed tissue around the area.  Often, surgery can be noninvasive; performed through arthroscopic surgery; when large tears have occurred in the muscle, open surgery is more advantageous for making the repairs needed for a full recovery.


Keeping all of the body’s muscles in good shape through regular exercise can help to prevent conditions such as supraspinatus tendonitis.  Fully warming the muscles before physical exercise such as participating in activities that require the arm to swing outward and over the head puts the muscles in better condition to handle the tasks which they are meant to perform.