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Physical Therapy For Shoulder Tendonitis

Physical Therapy For Shoulder Tendonitis

When you experience pain and discomfort in your shoulder, it could be a result of shoulder tendonitis. Shoulder tendonitis occurs when the rotator cuff has inflammation or irritation. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

Shoulder tendonitis may be present with a reduced range of motion, swelling, and weakness. Unfortunately, without prompt treatment, shoulder tendonitis can result in the tendon tearing or breaking down. This article explores physical therapy for shoulder tendonitis, including its benefits and exercises that can help relieve pain at Summit Physical Therapy.

What Is Shoulder Tendonitis?

Shoulder tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of the shoulder tendons. It can cause swelling in an area of the shoulder joint. Depending on the severity of the irritation, it may take weeks or months to recover from this condition. Therefore, visiting your doctor if the pain interferes with your daily activities is advisable.

Causes Of Shoulder Tendonitis

The primary cause of shoulder tendonitis is muscle overuse and repetitive motions. Other causes of shoulder tendonitis include repetitive overhead motions such as lifting weights and throwing a ball. Also, poor posture and trauma can cause inflammation in the shoulder tendons. Furthermore, arthritis and other joint conditions can cause a deterioration in the rotator cuff tendons, leading to shoulder tendonitis.

Although anyone can develop the condition, the risk factors include age, occupation, and sports activities. For example, athletes and sports people are likely to develop shoulder tendonitis due to muscle overuse. Other risk factors include previous injuries to the shoulder, strenuous training, and improper throwing techniques.

What Are The Stages Of Shoulder Tendonitis?

Overuse tendonitis: repetitive stress on the rotator cuff can lead to irritation and bruising of the tendon. This often occurs during overhead lifting, throwing, swimming, and golfing. Overuse tendonitis can lead to shoulder pain and joint weakness.

Calcific tendonitis: occurs when calcium deposits build up over time within the rotator cuff tendons. Calcific tendonitis is present with inflammation, leading to loss of shoulder strength and motion.

Impingement tendonitis: when the rotator cuff is weak, the humerus may pinch the tendon into the coracoacromial arch, resulting in inflammation. Impingement tendonitis often results from repetitive shoulder activities in jobs or sports that involve overhead reaching.

Rotator cuff tear: long term impingement tendinitis, sudden injuries, and degeneration can result in partial or complete tearing of the rotator cuff tendon. A rotator cuff tear can result in severe shoulder pain and loss of movement and function.

Treatment For Shoulder Tendonitis

There are several treatment options for shoulder tendonitis. However, surgery is often the last resort for shoulder tendonitis. Your doctor will prescribe the best treatment to reduce pain and inflammation. Treatment for shoulder tendonitis includes;


The RICE treatment method is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest means avoiding using the shoulder. Also, apply an ice pack to the sore area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Ice can help relieve pain and swelling. Afterward, apply an elastic bandage around the sore area for compression. You should also prop up and elevate the sore area.


In some cases, the RICE treatment may not relieve shoulder pain. Your doctor will prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief. Sometimes, your doctor may administer corticosteroid injections to relieve pain, especially if the cause of shoulder tendinitis is arthritis.

Physical Therapy For Tendonitis In Shoulder

Physical therapy for shoulder tendonitis is safe and effective. Besides relieving pain, a physical therapy plan can improve shoulder mobility and prevent future injuries. When you visit your physical therapist in Merrick, NY, for treatment, you will undergo an initial evaluation.

The evaluation will consist of tests including strength, posture evaluations, and range of motion tests. In addition, you may also undergo an MRI scan if there is an underlying condition.

What Does A Physical Therapy Program For Shoulder Tendonitis Look Like?

After diagnosing the cause of your pain, and evaluating your daily habits, job duties, and hobbies, your physical therapist will develop a customized treatment program. Usually a customized physical therapy treatment plan usually consists of pain management, patient education, manual therapy, and exercises.

Pain Management

Before restoring your range of motion, your physical therapist will use techniques to alleviate your pain and reduce swelling. Electrical stimulation, cold and heat therapy, and massage can help relieve pain.

Patient Education

Depending on the cause of your shoulder pain, your physical therapist will educate you and suggest changes to your posture, sleeping positions, and workstation. You will also learn exercises and movements you should avoid to prevent a recurrence of the pain.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment that can help relieve pain. The therapy involves gentle pressure applied to inflamed areas to reduce swelling. Usually, manual therapy techniques include shoulder stretches, soft-tissue massage, and gentle joint movement.

Range Of Motion Exercises

Range of motion exercises for shoulder tendonitis include exercises that can help improve mobility and your range of motion, helping you return to normal activities. In addition, your therapist will teach you stretches and exercises to improve your range of motion.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises can help restore your strength. Your physical therapist in Merrick will prescribe strengthening exercises using resistance bands, weights, and equipment to strengthen your weakened muscles.

Functional Exercises

After strengthening your muscles and improving your range of motion, your physical therapist will introduce functional exercises to help you return to your daily activities.

How Long Does Physical Therapy For Shoulder Tendonitis Take?

There is no specific timeframe for shoulder tendonitis physical therapy. Usually, the treatment period depends on the severity of your condition. Mild shoulder tendonitis takes about six to eight weeks to resolve completely. However, in severe cases, it may take up to 12 weeks.

Nevertheless, it is essential to seek treatment immediately after you start experiencing symptoms of shoulder tendonitis. Leaving the condition untreated can increase its severity and lengthen the recovery period.

Physical Therapy Exercises For Shoulder Tendonitis

The best physical therapy exercises for shoulder tendonitis should target your rotator cuff muscles and improve shoulder mobility and stability. Your physical therapist will create an individualized exercise program to address your needs. In addition, your physical therapist will guide you through the exercises, ensuring you use the correct form ad technique. Ensure you follow your physical therapist's instructions to avoid worsening your symptoms.

Strengthening Exercises For Shoulder Tendonitis

Resistance band shoulder flexion

This exercise involves the use of resistance bands. This low-impact rehabilitative exercise is best performed at later stages of your treatment program.

How to do resistance band shoulder flexion

  • Wrap the center of the band beneath your foot.
  • Grip the ends of the band with the fist of your injured shoulder.
  • Stand straight and ensure the band is firmly tapped beneath your foot.
  • Slowly pull the ends of the band upward. Ensure that you fully extend your arms forwards and that your shoulder remains at a neutral angle throughout the motion.
  • When your hand reaches a parallel plane with your shoulder, allow the resistance band slowly pull your hand back to its original position beneath your waist.

Resistance band shoulder extension

This exercise involves the use of resistance bands. The tension from the resistance band will boost recovery and rehabilitate your shoulder. It is best to perform this exercise at the later stages of rehabilitation when the tissues of the shoulder joint have sufficiently recovered.

How to do resistance band shoulder extension

  • Wrap the center of the resistance band around an anchored item in front of you. Ensure the band is secure to prevent it from slipping off the anchor.
  • Grip the ends of the resistance band in both hands and step a sufficient distance away from the anchor.
  • Maintain an upright posture and draw both ends of the resistance band behind you. Ensure you squeeze your deltoid muscles while doing this. You should feel some tension in your shoulder girdle.
  • After reaching a maximum range of motion, allow the tension in the band to pull your hands back to the original position slowly.

Pendulum exercise

Pendulum exercise uses very low levels of resistance to rehabilitate your shoulders. Therefore, this exercise is best for your early and intermediate rehabilitation program.

How to do pendulum exercise

  • Lean over a stable object approximately waist height.
  • Support your torso on the object with your uninjured arm.
  • Allow your injured arm to hang beneath you while you gently create momentum with your shoulder. Your arm should move in a pendular motion and slowly increase the radius till you achieve sufficient movement.

Stretching Exercises For Shoulder Tendonitis

Cross-chest shoulder stretch

The cross-chest stretch stretches your shoulder by applying pressure with your opposing arm.

How to do cross-chest shoulder stretch

  • Extend the arm of your injured side loosely across your chest.
  • Grip the elbow of your injured arm with your opposite hand.
  • Pull gently with your opposite hand and draw your elbow across your torso until you feel a stretching sensation.
  • Hold the position for a short period and then release your arm.

Sleeper stretch

The sleeper stretch is low impact, and it stretches all your shoulders. It is best to perform the exercise with a pillow to support your shoulders and neck.

How to do sleeper stretch

  • Lie on your side with your injured shoulder facing the floor.
  • Extend your arm forward and bend your elbow until your hand faces directly upwards.
  • Grasp your wrist or forearm with your opposite arm.
  • Slightly bend the arm towards the floor as your elbow remains bent.
  • When you reach your effective range of motion of your injured shoulder, hold the position for several seconds.
  • Release your arm to complete the stretch.

Shoulder internal rotation stretch

The shoulder internal rotation stretch is best done from a standing position without using the equipment.

How to do shoulder internal rotation stretch

  • Move the hand of your injured arm behind your back. Ensure your palm faces outward and your head faces forward.
  • Use your opposite hand to push the hand of your injured shoulder upwards along your back. You should feel a stretch.
  • Hold the position and count.
  • Release your injured arm to end the stretch.


Shoulder tendonitis already causes pain. However, without prompt treatment, the condition can become more severe. Additionally, depending on the severity of the pain, there are several treatment options for shoulder tendonitis. Fortunately, physical therapy effectively treats these symptoms and prevents a recurrence. Your physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy will create a specialized treatment program to reduce pain and improve mobility.

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