Conditions & Treatments

Shoulder Tendonitis

Tendonitis of the shoulder is an inflammation of the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon.

Shoulder Tendonitis

What is shoulder tendonitis?

Anatomy of the shoulder
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Tendonitis of the shoulder is an inflammation of the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon. Shoulder tendonitis is usually the result of a tendon being pinched by surrounding structures. Shoulder tendonitis often occurs in certain sports that require the arm to move over the head repeatedly, such as in baseball, weightlifting, racket sports, and certain swimming strokes. The injury may vary from mild inflammation to involvement of most of the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, also known as rotator cuff tendonitis, it may get trapped under the acromion (the roof, or highest point, of the shoulder that is formed by a part of the scapula, or shoulder blade).

What are the symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

The following are the most common symptoms of shoulder tendonitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Inability to hold arm in certain positions

  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder

The symptoms of shoulder tendonitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

How is shoulder tendonitis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for shoulder tendonitis may include an X-ray (a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and/or ultrasound.

Treatment for shoulder tendonitis

Specific treatment for shoulder tendonitis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Rest

  • Ice or heat 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

  • Strengthening exercises

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Corticosteroid injection

  • Surgery (for severe injuries)

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Bone and Joint Imaging and Intervention
    The Bone and Joint Imaging and Intervention Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging offers state-of-the-art diagnostic exams including MRI and CT, interpretation by specialty-trained radiologists, and image-guided procedures for the bones, joints, and spine.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Orthopaedics
    The MassGeneral Hospital for Children Orthopaedics Service provides clinical care to infants, children and adolescents, from birth to college age, for the entire spectrum of musculoskeletal problems.
Department of Orthopaedics

  • Shoulder Service
    Our Harvard Shoulder surgeons provide compassionate care to treat shoulder arthritis, shoulder fractures, shoulder nerve injuries and rotator cuff problems, helping patients get back to their daily activities.

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