A flare up of shoulder tendonitis can put your life on hold. But the sooner you start a healing regimen, the better your chances of a quick and lasting recovery.
Shoulder tendonitis can be a painful disruption to your daily life, affecting your sleep, your ability to enjoy active hobbies, and even your job.
Patients with pain or immobility in the shoulder joint often wonder how long it will take until they can resume their normal routines. Luckily, the recovery process is often relatively short, and may be completed in as few as six weeks. From common symptoms to treatment options, here’s what to expect if you’re suffering from tendonitis in your shoulder.
WHAT CAUSES TENDONITIS?
Shoulder tendonitis, like any form of tendonitis, affects the elastic tissues that connect muscle to bone. Shoulder tendons like the rotator cuff or biceps tendon stabilize the joint and allow it to move freely. Excessive, repetitive motion can lead to inflammation or irritation, and the flexible shoulder joint is vulnerable to stress, particularly in older patients. In some cases this can lead to tearing, especially if there is direct trauma to the joint.
Athletes who rely on their shoulders, including tennis players, swimmers, and weightlifters, are more susceptible to this condition. Shoulder tendonitis can also be a sign of other issues like shoulder impingement, so you should be sure to consult your doctor for a comprehensive diagnosis.
Tendonitis can be debilitating, as it prevents the joint from functioning as it should. If you suspect you have shoulder tendonitis, don’t ignore the symptoms. A minor twinge can become a burning pain in the joint, accompanied by swelling in the shoulder and upper arm. You’ll experience a limited range of motion, weakness, and stiffness in the shoulder. The pain may worsen if you try to lift or lower the arm, or if you put weight on the shoulder while lying down.
Most specialists will recommend starting with conservative treatments, which can ease pain and inflammation and restore your range of motion. Applying a cold compress to the shoulder for up to 20 minutes every few hours may help reduce swelling. Later in the healing process you can use a heating pad or take a hot shower to prevent stiffness in the shoulder. Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen or suggest corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.
To the best of your ability, you’ll need to rest the shoulder (barring any flexibility exercises that your doctor recommends). Avoid sleeping on the side of your body that is affected and be careful not to lift heavy objects. Your physical therapy regimen may include exercises targeting muscle development in the shoulder to better support the joint.
Though rare, more severe cases of shoulder tendonitis may call for arthroscopic surgery. During this minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon uses a small camera to view the affected tendons in order to remove damaged tissue and repair tears. Arthroscopy is accompanied by a short recovery time and rarely causes complications.
Patients suffering from shoulder tendonitis often enjoy a speedy recovery. Conservative treatments may provide relief within a week, with inflammation taking another few weeks to fully subside. However, healing times can vary based on age, underlying conditions, and other factors.
Nonetheless, a regimen of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory treatment, and physical therapy should lead to a complete recovery within six weeks. If surgery is required, a dedicated physical therapy regimen can significantly shorten the recovery timeline.
If you’re seeking relief from tendonitis, don’t hesitate to see a doctor, as the condition may worsen and become more difficult to treat. The orthopedic specialists at New York Bone & Joint can diagnose your condition and get you started on a comprehensive path to healing. Set up an appointment online or by phone today.