Shoulder Tendinopathy



The most common cause is overuse of a muscle and tendon. This can happen with repetitive motions such as reaching overhead or throwing.

It may be caused by:

  • Inflammatory disease in the shoulder, such as arthritis
  • Trauma to the shoulder, such as a fall on an outstretched arm

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people aged 30 years and older. People who do these activities are also at higher risk:

  • Tennis or other racquet sports
  • Swimming
  • Baseball
  • Overhead assembly work, butchering, or using an overhead pressing machine



Symptoms start slowly over time. Pain is often worse when using the shoulder.

Common problems are:

  • Dull pain in the shoulder and upper arm
  • Pain at night, mainly when sleeping
  • Pain when reaching behind
  • Pain with overhead use
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Shoulder stiffness and problems moving


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the shoulders. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound



It may take weeks or months to heal. The goals of treatment are to ease pain and swelling. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A sling to prevent the shoulder from moving as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion


Some people may need surgery to repair the tendon. The type of surgery depends on the injury.


This problem cannot always be prevented. Starting a new sport slowly may help lower the risk of injury.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.