Monday, January 16, 2017

PT Pathologies - Rotator Cuff Tendinitis


Rotator cuff tendinitis occurs when one of the tendons connected to the rotator cuff muscles becomes inflamed or irritated.  Rotator cuff tendinitis can be caused by several different reasons but is mainly due to repetitive overhead motions such as playing baseball, swimming, or painting.  A weak supraspinatus muscle will also cause pain because it cannot depress the head of the humerus during elevation of the arm.  The supraspinatus muscle has has the most commonly involved tendon in rotator cuff tendinitis.  Poor posture, tight muscles around the shoulder joint, and muscle weakness and imbalances are some other causes of rotator cuff tendinitis.

A physical therapist may perform some strength and range of motion tests on the patient, as well as palpate for pain and tenderness around the shoulder to determine which tendon is irritated.  Magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, may be used to confirm the diagnosis of rotator cuff tendinitis because it can clearly define which muscle is inflamed.  A patient may experience a dull ache after periods of shoulder activity, pain from palpation of the musculotendinous junction of the muscle involved, and a painful arc of motion between 60 and 120 degrees of active abduction.

There are many different ways of treating this pathology in physical therapy, with the main treatment being strengthening exercises.  While in PT a patient will most likely use ice to help mange the pain and any inflammation in the shoulder.  The PT may use manual therapy such as soft tissue massage on the shoulder muscles to help relieve tightness and increase mobility.  Strengthening of the affected muscle is the main goal of the home exercise program typically with the use of therabands.    It will take about 4-6 weeks for the patient to be able to return to their previous level of functioning and should have little to no pain when doing activities.

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