Shoulder Tendonitis – Causes, Treatment and Exercises

Shoulder pain and tendinitis - What should you do? If, like me, you have ever suffered from tendinopathy, you know how painful and embarrassing it is for daily activities. How do you get out of it and what movements can promote healing?

As we will see, the pain can be treated with infiltrations, corticosteroids or analgesics at first. We can also use rehabilitation, or even an operation in more serious cases. But there are also interesting alternative natural treatments that you will discover later. And when you start early enough or when you are in the recovery phase, there are exercises that really help to solve this joint problem.

Why does shoulder tendonitis hurt?

In fact, the shoulder joint is solicited all day longThis includes office activities. Just lifting something no heavier than a small purse will stab you in the back. 

The pain can even be unbearable only because you have raised your arm. The worst part is that you may not feel anything and have forgotten about your pain until the next movement that will suddenly trigger it.

Of course, I speak of the shoulder in the singular, because tendonitis often affects the one that is most solicited. For example, for me, it's always the right side that has been a problem, whether it's in weight training or tennis. 

However, it can happen that the 2 are reached if you solicit them much or with bad movements. And in this case, it's an absolute nightmare! Especially since I have noticed that this problem often appears before or after a tendinitis of the elbow (tennis elbow or golf elbow depending on the side concerned). Some medical dictionary fans call it a epicondylitis

In this article, I'll tell you where the problem comes from and how to get relief. Then, you will discover 6 exercises that can help you during the recovery phase. 

In a future article, I will help you to strengthen your shoulders in order to limit the risk of contracting tendonitis. But to fully understand the problem and possible solutions, you must first understand the origin of the problem.

Follow the guide, and don't forget the tip at the exit 😉

What is a rotator cuff injury?

Yes, we can indeed talk about rotator cuff tendinitis. And sports enthusiasts as well as high-level athletes know that it is to be taken seriously. It is an inflammation of the muscles and tendons, especially those belonging to a group of 4 muscles that ensure the rotation of the joint and stabilize it.

It is in most cases due to too much stress on the muscles, which leads inexorably to this inflammation of the shoulder tendons to which they are connected. That's why I often suffered from it when I was a tennis player (well average, I must admit). 

The tendon pains are so bad that you can't even play your favorite sport anymore. This is death for an enthusiastic sportsman! Especially since if no effective solution is found, you end up with chronic tendonitis against which you spend your time fighting with painkillers. 

It's not great... especially since it can be accompanied by calcification over time.

NOTE : You should not confuse the symptoms of tendonitis with the stiffness associated with what is commonly called frozen shoulder (also called retractable capsulitis). If you are in this case, I invite you to read the article from the Doctissimo website on this subject.

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Physiotherapist Heidi Jannenga says you should visualize the head of the humerus as a golf ball, and the area of the scapula where it comes to rest as a golf tee. 

She explains: "The rotator cuff Serves as a sleeve that allows the ball to slide and roll while remaining on the tee." Without these four tendons, the shoulder would be completely unstable.

If you suffer from tendonitis, the first thing to do is to treat the problem. For this, I invite you to read this excellent article in the Journal des Femmes.

What treatment should be offered for a painful shoulder?

After his diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe an arsenal of painkillers: aspirin, various anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroid infiltrations and other analgesics or painkillers. But this is of course not not ideal in the long term.

Especially since you won't be able to do the next Tour de France if you take it 😉

The medical treatment can also be accompanied by rehabilitation to avoid shoulder surgery in the case of a major trauma. In any case, if it is very serious, additional examinations may be necessary, such as an X-ray or an arthroscopy.

Anyway, when you are in too much pain, you have to relieve the pain first. And I don't think you want to go through with the surgery. It's clear...

There are also interesting and less aggressive solutions thanks to physiotherapy (e.g. green clay poultices), physiotherapy or acupuncture, for example.

But, once you are in recovery phaseIf your tendonitis is in its early stages, you can speed up the process by doing various exercises that you will learn about below. If your tendonitis is in its early stages, you can also try these to see if they help.

That's what I did during the last few alerts, and it worked well for me. So why not for you?

What to do before or after tendonitis?

My own experience has helped me understand 3 things:

  1. You need to take time to heal before you fix the problem, or at least not make it worse, as you read in the previous section. No training during the acute phase in any case, be patient!
  2. Once you are on the mend, you need to prepare for the post-tendonitis period with some stretching and exercises.
  3. When the shoulder is healed, you should strengthen it gradually.

Point 3 is very important because I only eliminated my tendonitis problem when I developed my muscles the right way. I used to lift as heavy as I could, thinking that you build your shoulders like your pecs. But it is not. 

Give the shoulder time to heal

That's why I've planned an article dedicated to the right way to work the shoulders. But in the meantime, let's look at how to heal tendonitis. There is a method that promotes recovery or prevents the progression of tendonitis. It can be summarized in 3 words:

  1. Rest
  2. Ice
  3. Compression

Well, for rest, it's pretty easy to set up. As for the ice, I use a plastic block that we use for the cooler and I hold it on my shoulder or I hold it in a cloth that I tie around the joint for a little 15 minutes.

To compress the shoulder, you can use a compression bandage, but it is not very practical or comfortable. The ideal is an adjustable shoulder pad like these:

HOPAI Adjustable Shoulder Strap for Women and Men
  • ❤High quality material - HOPAI shoulder brace made...
  • ❤Pain shoulder recovery - Our orthotic...
  • ❤Easy to put on - The shoulder support design is...

These 3 techniques will reduce pain and inflammation. Once the pain is a memory, some exercises will help you heal greatly if you are reasonable. By this I mean that you should not try to develop your shoulders while you are recovering from tendonitis. 

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Patiently prepare your shoulders

No, you will only be doing muscle building to prepare you for future progress and to prevent further injury. Don't forget to add stretching exercises before and after your sessions, even when you are healed.

Let's move on to the recovery and repair phase.

Warning: For each of these movements, you should work without looking for performance. Concentrate only on the correct execution of the movement, even if you are doing it almost empty. The important thing is to contract the muscles involved. Nothing more!

Let's go !

6 exercises to heal shoulder tendonitis

Here are some movements that have been proven to promote shoulder recovery. Try them without straining to see if they work for you as they did for me.

1. Stretch them before your session

This is a great way to warm up your shoulders before working them. I recommend that you keep this routine even after they are permanently healed of any tendonitis.

To warm them up properly:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet about 30 centimeters apart.
  2.  Join your hands behind your back as you open your rib cage and let your shoulders go back, trying to bring your shoulder blades together.
  3. Slowly raise your hands toward the ceiling behind your back (or the sky if you are outside). Raise them as high as you can, but keep your back straight.
  4. Hold the position for 20 seconds.

Do this 3 times if possible.

For the following exercises, you will need rubber bands. Choose the lowest resistance at first. This is often a 5-pound or 2.3 kg band.

2. External rotation with an elastic band

Some movements, such as this one and the next, must be performed with an elastic band. It is true that they are not impressive to see, or even to do. Especially since you have to choose a relatively low resistance.

Yet, I was surprised at the improvement I felt in the other exercises in my sessions for my right shoulder with this one. Be sure to watch the video for this simple movement that looks like opening a door.

Warning: I insist on this point, take a low resistance so that you don't hurt your shoulder. You will probably never have much strength on this movement anyway. Focus on getting the shoulder to rotate outward.

As shown in this video, do at least 3 sets of 10-20 reps.

3. Internal rotation with an elastic band

There is not much to add on this movement, since the instructions are more or less the same as for the previous one. Always take care to take a weak resistance not to weaken your shoulder.

This exercise is simply closing the door you opened in the previous one. The muscles of the shoulder are used smoothly. Count the number of repetitions carefully so as not to leave the door open 😉

As shown in this video, do at least 3 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions. For the good health of your shoulders, I recommend that you keep these 2 exercises for your warm-ups, even when you are completely healed.

4. Heavy pants

I like this direct translation of the English "Heavy pants". This movement is not primarily for the shoulders, but for the large back. However, it does give them enough of a workout after tendonitis.

Exercise to help heal shoulder tendonitis

To execute it well:

  1. Choose a low-strength elastic band that you will loop under your feet and grasp each side directly below the carabiners. Your feet are about shoulder width apart.
  2. Keep the half-squat position with your back straight, at 45° to your thighs (follow the picture).
  3. Pull your elbows back, contracting your upper back muscles and bringing your shoulder blades together as you inhale. Exhale as you bring your elbows back down.
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Do 3 sets of 10 to 20.

5. Reverse fly

This is an upper back movement, but it also works the back of the shoulders (posterior deltoids). The resistance band the weakest is enough to feel the muscles working.

Reverse fly for shoulder tendonitis

To execute it well:

  1. Spread your feet 30 centimeters apart. Move away from the door anchor until the band is slightly taut when your arms are extended in front of you (left photo).
  2. Spread your arms in an inward motion, keeping your arms horizontal. Pull back to bring shoulder blades together as close as possible.
  3. Bring your arms back to the starting position while exhaling.

Do 3 sets of 20 reps if possible. You'll see that it's not as easy as it sounds, but it feels good.

6. Starting the lawnmower

No need to make the lawnmower noise, since it shouldn't start. Otherwise, it would stop the exercise 🙂

All kidding aside, you'll understand why it's called that by following this video:

To execute it well:

Well, all you have to do is do exactly as in the video, without rushing.

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart with a resistance band under the foot opposite the shoulder being worked. Lean forward with a slight bend in your knees. The band should be just under tension at the starting point.
  2. With the hand that is gripping the band, pull as if you want to bring the band back up as high as possible, but without extending the forearm. It is the shoulder alone that will rise at the end of the movement. Don't do this movement too quickly. Take the time to do it correctly.
  3. Keep your shoulders relaxed and bring your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

When to consult a specialist?

As I said at the beginning, these exercises should not be done when the shoulder tendonitis is strong. In any case, the chronic pain would quickly become unbearable. You must treat the tendon problem first. Take this problem seriously, even more so than if you had a muscle problem.

Consult a specialist if:

  • The pain in the shoulder is intense
  • The shoulder is swollen
  • You have trouble lifting your arm
  • You have trouble sleeping on your arm

In any case, consult us if you have any doubts or if the pain becomes even more intense with these exercises. 

However, these will be helpful if you are just starting to feel pain from misuse of your joint or if you are in the recovery phase. They have already served me well, there is no reason why they can't do the same for you.

That's all the good I wish you...

For those of you who also experience knee problems, read these 2 important articles:

Best exercises to strengthen them
Relieve knee pain

Conclusion on shoulder tendonitis

As you may have realized, your best allies in getting rid of this disabling problem are :

  • Time;
  • Patience;
  • Exercises that are not strenuous on the joint.

If you have tried these exercises or know of others, please send me a message at stephane@sportchezsoi.com. Thank you 😉

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Last update on 2022-11-04 / Affiliate links / Some images are from the Amazon Product Advertising API

2 réflexions sur “Tendinite de l’épaule – Causes, traitement et exercices”

  1. great article, as usual
    Can I ask you for some exercises for the back; in fact I have a scoliosis which is quite visible (predominantly on the right side, in short I'm almost humpbacked!!!)
    I practice weight training but as soon as I do rowing or I'm a little inclined, it burns on my right side.
    I don't know if there would be exercises for that?
    thank you in advance

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