how long does it take to heal shoulder tendonitis
Shoulder tendinitis can take 4 weeks to 6 months or longer to heal, depending on the severity of your injury

Shoulder tendonitis can be very painful and recovery times vary depending on the severity of injury:

  • Minor injuries typically heal within 4 weeks with proper treatment and care. 
  • Moderate injuries may take about 6-8 weeks to heal. 
  • In some cases, recovery may take as long as 6 months to a year.

Preventing further damage to the affected area is vital when it comes to shoulder tendon injuries, since they can be difficult to heal even with rest, medications, and physical therapy.

What is shoulder tendonitis?

Shoulder tendonitis occurs when your rotator cuff and biceps tendon becomes irritated or inflamed due to overuse of the arms. Different types of shoulder tendonitis include:

  • Calcific tendonitis: Usually caused by a buildup of calcium crystals in the shoulder tendons.
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis: May cause severe neck pain along with shoulder pain.
  • Supraspinatus tendonitis: Common among athletes.

Depending on the cause, shoulder tendonitis may be further classified as:

  • Acute shoulder tendonitis: Symptoms may develop suddenly due to excessive overhead activities.
  • Chronic shoulder tendonitis: Symptoms are typically caused by a degenerative disease, such as arthritis, or long-term repetitive wear and tear.

Who is at risk of developing shoulder tendonitis?

Shoulder tendonitis often affects people who play sports or do work that requires them to move their arms over their heads repeatedly. People most at risk include:

  • Tennis players
  • Swimmers
  • Baseball players
  • Painters
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Construction or maintenance workers
  • Welders
  • Golfers

While the most common cause of shoulder tendonitis is overuse of the shoulder tendons, other risk factors can increase the chances of developing the condition:

  • Poor work posture (especially leaning over a computer for extended periods)
  • Tight muscles and tissues around the shoulder joint (may be hereditary or due to a sedentary lifestyle)
  • Weakness or imbalance of the muscles in and around the shoulder (possibly due to poor diet)
  • Severe trauma to the shoulder

What are the signs and symptoms of shoulder tendonitis?

Signs and symptoms of shoulder tendonitis may include:

  • Pain and swelling at the tip of the shoulder. Pain and swelling may also be noticed in the upper, outer parts of the arm.
  • This pain may often get worse when patients reach, lift, pull, push or lie on their sides. This can make it difficult to sleep comfortably if patients roll or sleep on their shoulders.
  • There may also be a clicking (grating) sensation or sound when the tendon moves.
  • Patients experience shoulder weakness.
  • Patients are unable to hold their shoulders in certain positions.
  • Some patients may also develop stiffness and experience decreased range of motion.

Shoulder tendonitis may cause severe complications that can limit your ability to perform daily activities. If your symptoms don’t resolve on their own within a few days, seek medical help for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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What are treatment options for shoulder tendonitis?

Most cases of shoulder tendonitis are treatable. But the sooner you start treatment, the greater your chances of recovering faster. If caught early, conservative treatment is usually successful. 

Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend home remedies, physical therapy, or surgery.

Home remedies

  • Rest: Restrict any activities that make symptoms worse, including lifting things overhead and or making forceful reaching movements.
  • Ice: Applying an ice pack or cold compress may reduce shoulder swelling and provide relief from pain.
  • Posture: Maintaining proper posture may reduce strain on the shoulders and arms.

Physical therapy

If your symptoms of shoulder tendonitis interfere with your normal daily functions for more than 1-2 weeks, see a physical therapist.

  • Your physical therapist may recommend functional training with strengthening and stretching exercises using slings and braces.
  • In some cases, a steroid injection may be administered directly into the shoulder. This can temporarily reduce pain, although it will need to be repeated once a month for 3 months.

Surgery

If you are still in pain after trying these conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend a procedure to help repair the damage in the rotator cuff, either with open surgery or a minimally invasive procedure. The general goal of surgery is to make more space for the rotator cuff by removing parts of the bursa that are damaged or inflamed.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/26/2021
References
Cleveland Clinic. Shoulder Tendinitis. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/13203-shoulder-tendinitis

Cedars-Sinai. Shoulder Tendonitis. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/s/shoulder-tendonitis.html

Penn Medicine. Shoulder Tendinitis Diagnosis and Treatment. https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/find-a-program-or-service/orthopaedics/shoulder-pain/shoulder-tendinitis-diagnosis-and-treatment