Our shoulders are a wonderful joint! Although, like the hip the shoulder is a ball and socket joint, they have such an amazing degree of movement that allows us to perform many tasks that require the enhanced flexibility that the hip joint simply cannot. 

But, like a doubleedged sword the larger degree of movement available in the shoulder means it is less stable and therefore far more likely to sustain overuse injuries like tendonitis. 

So, what are the early signs that you might be developing tendonitis and what can you do about it? 

As we mentioned earlier most cases of shoulder tendonitis occur due to people performing repeated or sustained movements. This is especially the case where the movements are overhead or cause you to reach out with an extended arm. So, there is a high likelihood you will develop shoulder tendonitis over time rather than in a single incident. The symptoms may be mild at the start and build to become more obvious and constant but by that time more changes may have occurred in the tendon making your recovery take longer so pays to know the warning signs. 

The most common symptoms and early warning signs of shoulder tendonitis are: 

  • Pain when raising your arm or pain when you lower your arm from overhead or after reaching out 
  • A feeling of stiffness in the shoulder especially in the morning 
  • Pain that lingers even when you’ve stopped moving and the shoulder is still. We find a lot of people complain of a throb or ache in the shoulder when they go to bed, that may even wake them not long after going to sleep 
  • Tenderness when you push on the tendon which is located a little further forward from the tip of the shoulder 
  • A less specific ache that covers the side of the shoulder and upper arm around the location where someone in the military or police force might have the badge of their sleeve, we call this the military badge sign” 
  • Difficulty or pain when reaching in your back pocket or to the clasp on your bra strap 
  • A clicking or grinding sensation when moving the shoulder even if it is not painful may be an early sign that there is a build-up of fluid in the tendon 

Experiencing any of these warning signs combined with doing repetitive overhead or reaching activities, even if it’s for a short time like doing a weekend building project or playing a friendly game of tennis, is a good indication your shoulder is developing tendonitis. 

This is me! What can I do about it?

Obviously, the easiest thing to do is avoid the activity/activities that caused the inflammation; however, this is only easy if it’s something you do occasionally and is not particularly helpful if it’s a task you perform often or for work and therefore cannot avoid. 

This is where it is important to see a Physiotherapist who is an expert in analysing ALL of the factors that have led to you developing shoulder tendonitis. Many people have muscle imbalances that cause certain rotator cuff muscles to become overactive while others become weaker. It is important to correct these imbalances in order to resolve your shoulder tendonitis and stop it from reoccurring. Other people may have issues with the alignment and stability of their shoulder that need to be corrected. In some cases your physio may order scans to determine the severity of your shoulder tendonitis but these scans are not necessarily indicative of your prognosis. 

The good news is that knowing the early warning signs means you can get started on treatment for your shoulder tendonitis early, with most early cases being able to be resolved with conservative treatment without the need for injections or surgical intervention. In all cases it is best to have a thorough assessment performed by a Physiotherapist and commence on treatment to resolve the underlying issues before progressing to more invasive treatments.  

Can Activate Physiotherapy help with shoulder tendonitis?

If you have been suffering from any of the early warning signs of shoulder tendonitis, whether they have occurred recently or have been happening for a while now we can help. Our team of Physiotherapists are trained to provide a complete assessment and treatment of shoulder related pain and injury. We are specialised in providing you with management to heal what hurts and empowering you to get on with living your life.  

For a free 15minute phone consultation with a physio to get more advice or discuss your specific concerns click here.