Nonoperative Management of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis, Called Impingement Syndrome

Nonoperative Management of Rotator Cuff Tendonitis, Called Impingement Syndrome

The most common cause of shoulder pain in this country is from impingement syndrome, also known as rotator cuff tendonitis. Impingement syndrome is a term that stands for pinching of the soft tissue between the area of the shoulder called the acromion and the rotator cuff musculature. The area that gets pinched when you lift or rotate your arm is called a bursa. A bursa is a term for a piece of soft tissue that overlies musculature and provides cushioning and protection and lubrication. The rotator cuff bursa turns into bursitis from inflammation of the soft tissue from the repetitive activity.

This repetitive activity can be from something such as weightlifting, golf, tennis, really any activity that involves repetitive weightlifting and rotating the shoulder such that the bursal sac is pinched repetitively up against the bone called the acromion. The good news with impingement syndrome is that over 90{be17667924e0676001cfaaf1886d6ef17d700bff9b5272e3e9de385367daa030} of the time, conservative treatments work and the pain gets better without having to go to surgery.

Conservative treatments for impingement syndrome include:

  1. Benign Neglect – It’s not a fatal condition, you can simply neglect it and deal with the discomfort
  2. Steroid injections
  3. Physical Therapy
  4. Alternative Treatments – Chiropractic and/or acupuncture
  5. Pain Medications such as Tylenol, NSAIDS, or short term narcotics for severe pain

The good news is that these conservative treatments typically work very well and the patient’s pain gets under control.
Utilizing any medications for a chronic time period is not a good choice for impingement syndrome. They can become addictive and pain from rotator cuff tendonitis is simply not worthy of chronic narcotics.

Should surgery become necessary, and once again this is less than 10{be17667924e0676001cfaaf1886d6ef17d700bff9b5272e3e9de385367daa030} of the time, the procedure is called an arthroscopy. The procedure is usually fairly short, an hour or less, and involves shaving a piece of bone off of underneath the acromion bone in order to give the person back more room for clearance as the shoulder elevates and rotates during activities.

So in summary, the good news is that rotator cuff tendinitis, which is typically called impingement syndrome, is a condition that by and large they can be treated non-operatively very effectively.