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You have shoulder pain and are wondering if you have rotator cuff tendonitis. The rotator cuff is not one, but 4 muscles in your shoulder joint, and is the area of complaint for many non-athletes. Let’s discuss why that is as well as the following:

  • What is rotator cuff tendonitis? 
  • Will it heal on its own?
  • Should you get a shoulder brace?
  • What are the best treatment options?
  • How to avoid frozen shoulder and more! 

What is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis? 

Your rotator cuff consists of four muscles:rotator cuff tendonitis

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis 

Each of these muscles has tendons that connect the muscles to the bones that make up your shoulder joint which are the humerus (arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade). Now, tendonitis by definition is inflammation (-itis) of the tendon. 

Inflammation of the tendon is really more of a symptom than a diagnosis, which is why it’s necessary to dig deeper and get down the root cause of your shoulder pain to better treat it. We have found that our Functional Movement and Postural Neurology exam is the perfect tool in doing just that. 

The muscles of the rotator cuff are the main stabilizers of your shoulder joint meaning that they help to maintain the proper posture of the shoulder at rest and in movement. Symptoms of rotator cuff tendonitis may include: 

  • Pain in the shoulder at rest
  • Pain when lifting the arm
  • Pain into the arm
  • Decrease in strength 
  • Pain with overhead activities
  • Pain at night
  • Decrease in range of motion

Please know that not every shoulder pain is tendonitis, so if you’re having  pain be sure to see your doctor of choice. You are also entitled to have more than one thing wrong, and although you may have tendonitis in the shoulder, other soft tissues surrounding your shoulder as well your neck are impacted. 

The most common causes and “feeders” of rotator cuff tendonitis, shoulder pain, and dysfunction are: 

  • Overuse 
  • Repetitive overhead movement 
  • Bad ergonomics 
  • Bad posture 
  • Improper breathing mechanics 

Working behind a desk and being on the computer is the most common contributor to shoulder pain in non-athletes. This also applies to students, and we are starting to see the effects of increased time on the computer even in young children. If you’re wondering how your desk ergonomics and computer time are contributing to your shoulder pain watch the video below. 

If you work behind a desk, my blogs on How to Fix Your Desk Ergonomics and Keyboard Ergonomics are must-reads. Although changing your ergonomics is necessary, that alone will not treat the damage done to your soft tissue and the dysfunctional movement that has resulted.

Shoulder pain left untreated can result in an increase in the severity of symptoms eventually leading to what is called frozen shoulder which is so mishandled and what patients are told is such non-sense.

Will Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Heal on Its Own?

If you have rotator cuff tendonitis and do not make the necessary lifestyle changes and correct the dysfunctional movement, it will not just go away on its own. Of course, if you limit activity then the pain may subside, but once you go back to your normal routines the symptoms will shortly return. Why is that?

Most people working behind a desk develop what is referred to as a forward head posture accompanied by rolled forward shoulders. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint consisting of the humerus (the ball at the end of your arm) and scapula (or shoulder blade which is the socket the ball goes in).

In a healthy shoulder joint there is a nice space between the ball and socket and the ball rotates within the joint and that space is never decreased, but with bad shoulder posture this joint becomes de-centrated, and every movement becomes dysfunctional. 

What is the Best Treatment?

This de-centrated joint that you’ve developed over time becomes your ‘norm’ and impacts every movement. The resulted musculature imbalance, with one side of the joint being too tight (pecs) and the other being overstretched and weak (shoulder blade stabilizers) need to be addressed using functional rehabilitation and Active Release Technique (ART). 

Once the soft tissue is cleared, the functional movement of the shoulder is not automatically fixed to the default. You see, if movement was a concert, the body parts would be the musicians who not only need to know their musical instrument and parts but need to know when to chime in and phase out. With frozen shoulder and the dysfunctional shoulder and shoulder blade, there was a compromise in the performance that needs to be practiced with the ‘other musicians’ once the “fixing” is taking place.

If you don’t correct the dysfunctional movement in conjunction with the soft tissue work and lifestyle changes, in movement the shoulder will still function in a dysfunctional state because it has not been working and practiced with the rest of the body parts in movement.

This is what Functional Movement, Developmental Kinesiology, and DNS are all about. Watch this short video no matter what because THIS is the essence of effective treatment for the shoulder joint and all other musculoskeletal conditions.

With Postural Neurology we can map out which parts of the brain in regards to movement and posture are not active and stimulate those strategically; this is the essence of positive neuroplasticity that hopefully, you have heard of before. The brain is in charge of every function in your body and the quality of the map (homunculus) of all your body parts in your brain must be addressed in the treatment of every musculoskeletal condition.

The exercise below is something we all did at approximately 7 months of age and is how we build the shoulder stabilizers working with the rest of the body to do its part. The best teachers are babies because all babies on this planet go through the same developmental stages of movement which btw establish and reinforce the neural track for each movement. We are programmed to move systematically the way all babies move so why not learn how that way is and re-walk the same path when correcting a problem?

Shoulder Pain from Sleeping

Your sleeping habits do matter and trying to get a good night’s sleep can be difficult when you have shoulder pain, especially if you’re a side sleeper. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! First things first, if you’re a stomach sleeper you probably have more than just shoulder pain, because this is the worst way you could be sleeping and is bad for your shoulders, neck, and back! Get yourself a body pillow and STOP tonight!!

The best way to sleep is on your back but that may be easier said than done for some people. If you’re a side sleeper with or without shoulder pain, you want to make sure that you are not compressing the shoulder joint when sleeping. Watch this video to see how to avoid messing up your neck and shoulder when sleeping which is one of the ‘feeders’ of the shoulder pain issue. You see, have you seen how a cut tree, the following year has a new shoot sprouting out? That is because the feeder of the problem (the trunk of the tree) was not addressed. If you want to eradicate a problem, you need to look at all angles in detail.

I hope you found this information helpful; make sure to check out my Youtube Channel and the playlist specific to shoulders and if you still need help, contact me.

Dr. Shakib