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What are the Different Treatments for Supraspinatus Tendinitis?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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There are a variety of ways to treat the pain and loss of motion caused by supraspinatus tendinitis. The first step is to resolve the inflammation of the tendon; this can be accomplished using several methods including rest, ice, and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Physical therapy may then be used to increase strength and flexibility in the tendon and surrounding muscles. In severe cases where the damage cannot be healed using other methods, surgery may be necessary.

Reducing the inflammation that is causing supraspinatus tendinitis is important during treatment, both to control the pain and to help the injury heal. Application of cold using ice packs for a period of time, several times per day, can help decrease pain and swelling. It is important to rest the injured shoulder, particularly from any activities that may have led it to be injured in the first place; however, any movement that causes pain should be avoided if possible. Taking NSAIDs may also help bring down the inflammation and stop pain. If the pain is severe enough, a cortisone injection in the shoulder may be an option.

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Once the pain and inflammation of supraspinatus tendinitis is under control, the next step in treatment is typically physical therapy. Depending on the severity of the injury and how long it takes to heal, the patient may experience varying degrees of loss in strength and flexibility in the affected shoulder. Stretching exercises designed to expand the range of motion will typically be used. Exercises which tone and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, which are the muscles normally impacted by damage to the supraspinatus, are also generally part of the therapy. Therapy can take anywhere from around two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the condition.

Surgery may be necessary to correct supraspinatus tendinitis if other forms of treatment do not work, or if the injury is bad enough. For example, the supraspinatus may actually be torn, in which case a surgeon would need to go in and repair it. If possible, the condition should be treated with surgery only as a last resort or if absolutely necessary, as it can extend recovery time significantly and increase the amount of rehabilitation needed to regain full functionality of the shoulder. For some patients, however, rest and physical therapy are not sufficient and the condition will persist unless surgery is performed.

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