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Rotator Cuff Tendonitis Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms develop gradually over time and pain slowly increases with use.

If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to shoulder tendinopathy. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Pain (a dull ache) in the shoulder and upper arm
  • Pain at night, especially when sleeping on the injured side
  • Pain when trying to reach for a back zipper or pocket
  • Pain with overhead use of the arm
  • Shoulder weakness, usually due to pain with effort
  • Shoulder stiffness with some loss of motion


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check tender areas, range of motion, and muscle strength.

For severe symptoms or to rule out other problems your doctor may order:

  • X-rays —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body,
  • CT arthrography—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the joint after a dye has been injected into the joint
  • Local anesthetic injection into the bursa overlying the rotator cuff tendons
    • This may confirm diagnosis if pain is relieved.
  • Arthroscopy —Done under anesthesia, a long, thin, fiberoptic tube with a light on the end is inserted through a small incision in the shoulder to look at the structures inside
    • This is more likely done if your doctors thinks you have a rotator cuff rupture.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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