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Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Treatment Overview

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Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • Most rotator cuff tendinitis can be treated at home.
  • Try rest, ice, ibuprofen, changing your activities, and simple stretching and strengthening exercises.
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When you may need a provider

  • Pain is not starting to go away after 2–3 weeks of home treatments
  • You can’t lift your arm
  • You may need to see a provider in-person for a physical exam.
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Emergency Care

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Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain radiating down the arm with chest heaviness
  • Severe pain and inability to move the shoulder
  • Sudden numbness and weakness in the arm

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All treatments for rotator cuff tendonitis
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When to see a healthcare provider

Consider seeing a healthcare provider if your shoulder pain and stiffness are not improving after 2–3 weeks of regular home treatments including rest, ice, OTC anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, and reducing shoulder activity.

If you can’t lift your arm, you should see a doctor to make sure your rotator cuff tendon is not completely torn. Also see a doctor if you have sudden pain and loss of motion in the shoulder, which could be frozen shoulder.

Getting diagnosed

Your doctor will diagnose rotator cuff tendinitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. They will test the range of motion and strength of your shoulder to see if you have tears in the rotator cuff tendons.

Your doctor may request X-rays to check for other conditions like arthritis in the shoulder, or bone spurs that may be rubbing the rotator cuff tendons. If your shoulder is very weak, your doctor may recommend an MRI to look for tears in the rotator cuff tendons.

What to expect from your visit

  • A doctor will diagnose you based on your symptoms and other tests if needed.
  • You may get a prescription NSAID.
  • It is likely that your doctor will want you to do physical therapy to work on shoulder stretching and strengthening.
  • In some cases, you may be asked if you want a cortisone injection into the shoulder joint to help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • If your symptoms don’t improve in 3–6 weeks, your doctor may request an MRI of the shoulder to see if you have a torn rotator cuff tendon.
  • Surgery may be needed to repair a tear in the tendon that’s causing severe pain and weakness in your shoulder.

Prescription rotator cuff tendinitis medications

  • Meloxicam (Mobic)
  • Nabumetone (Relafen)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)

Types of providers

  • A primary care provider can treat mild to moderate symptoms.
  • An orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist are doctors who treat bone, muscle, and tendon disorders. Some may specialize in shoulders.
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