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Supraspinatus Tendinopathy - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Supraspinatus tendon causes inflammation and damage to the tendon of the shoulder. Read below to learn about the same.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Suman Saurabh

Published At April 5, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 5, 2023


Supraspinatus tendinopathy is a condition that affects the supraspinatus tendon, which is located in the shoulder. The supraspinatus tendon is one of four tendons that attach the rotator cuff muscles to the shoulder blade. These muscles and tendons stabilize the shoulder joint and allow arm movement. When the supraspinatus tendon becomes inflamed or damaged, it can cause pain and weakness in the shoulder. It is a common cause of shoulder pain and is often seen in athletes who participate in sports that require repetitive overhead motions, such as swimming, tennis, or baseball.

What Are the Causes of Supraspinatus Tendinopathy?

Some of the most common causes of supraspinatus tendinopathy are as follows:

  • Repetitive Overhead Movements - One of the most common causes of supraspinatus tendinopathy is repetitive overhead movements. This includes activities such as swimming, tennis, and baseball, which require the arm to be lifted overhead repeatedly. Over time, this can cause wear and tear on the supraspinatus tendon, leading to inflammation and pain.

  • Poor Posture - Poor posture can also contribute to supraspinatus tendinopathy. When the shoulders are slouched forward or rounded, it can place extra stress on the supraspinatus tendon, leading to inflammation and damage. It is important to maintain good posture to avoid this condition.

  • Trauma or Injury - In some cases, supraspinatus tendinopathy may be caused by a traumatic injury, such as a fall or direct blow to the shoulder. This can cause damage to the supraspinatus tendon and lead to inflammation and pain.

  • Age and Degeneration - Our tendons naturally lose some of their elasticity and strength as we age. This can make them more susceptible to injury and inflammation. Additionally, degenerative changes in the supraspinatus tendon can contribute to the development of supraspinatus tendinopathy.

  • Medical Conditions - Certain medical conditions can also increase the risk of developing supraspinatus tendinopathy. These include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disorders. These conditions can cause inflammation throughout the body, which can contribute to the development of supraspinatus tendinopathy.

What Are the Symptoms of Supraspinatus Tendinopathy?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with supraspinatus tendinopathy are as follows:

  • Shoulder Pain - The most common symptom of supraspinatus tendinopathy is pain in the shoulder. The pain may be a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing sensation and may be felt in the front, back, or top of the shoulder. The pain is often worse when lifting the arm overhead or reaching behind the back.

  • Weakness or Loss of Strength in the Shoulder - Supraspinatus tendinopathy can also cause weakness or loss of strength in the shoulder. This can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as lifting objects or reaching for items on a high shelf.

  • Limited Range of Motion in the Shoulder - Another symptom of supraspinatus tendinopathy is limited range of motion in the shoulder. This can make it difficult to perform certain movements, such as reaching overhead or behind the back. The range of motion may also be limited by pain and stiffness in the shoulder.

  • Stiffness or Tightness in the Shoulder - Supraspinatus tendinopathy can cause stiffness or tightness in the shoulder, which can make it difficult to move the shoulder joint. This can also contribute to limited range of motion and make everyday activities more challenging.

How to Make a Diagnosis of Supraspinatus Tendinopathy?

The most common methods used to diagnose supraspinatus tendinopathy are as follows:

  • Physical Examination - A physical examination is often the first step in diagnosing supraspinatus tendinopathy. During this exam, a healthcare provider will assess the range of motion in the shoulder and look for any signs of weakness or pain. They may also palpate the supraspinatus tendon to check for tenderness or swelling.

  • Imaging Tests - Imaging tests, such as X-rays, ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resource imaging) scans, can be used to confirm a diagnosis of supraspinatus tendinopathy. These tests can help identify any structural abnormalities or damage to the supraspinatus tendon.

  • Diagnostic Injection - In some cases, a diagnostic injection may be used to help diagnose supraspinatus tendinopathy. During this procedure, a healthcare provider will inject a small amount of local anesthetic into the area around the supraspinatus tendon. If the pain is significantly reduced after the injection, it can confirm a diagnosis of supraspinatus tendinopathy.

  • Arthroscopy - In some cases, arthroscopy may be used to diagnose supraspinatus tendinopathy. This minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a small camera into the shoulder joint to visualize the supraspinatus tendon and surrounding structures. This can help identify any structural abnormalities or damage.

How Can Supraspinatus Tendinopathy Be Treated?

Here are some of the most common treatment methods for supraspinatus tendinopathy:

  • Rest and Activity Modification - One of the first steps in treating supraspinatus tendinopathy is to rest the affected shoulder and avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms. This can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

  • Physical Therapy - Physical therapy is often recommended for individuals with supraspinatus tendinopathy. A physical therapist can design a specific exercise program to help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and improve the range of motion. They may also use modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation to promote healing.

  • Medications - Medications can be used to manage pain and inflammation associated with supraspinatus tendinopathy. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and swelling. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may also be used to reduce inflammation.

  • Surgery - In severe cases of supraspinatus tendinopathy, surgery may be recommended. This may involve repairing the damaged tendon or removing any bone spurs or other structural abnormalities that are contributing to symptoms.

  • Alternative Therapies - Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic care may also be used to help manage symptoms of supraspinatus tendinopathy. These therapies can help reduce pain and promote relaxation, which can aid in the healing process.

How Can Supraspinatus Tendinopathy Be Prevented?

Some tips for preventing supraspinatus tendinopathy are as follows:

  • Strengthen Shoulder Muscles - Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of developing supraspinatus tendinopathy. Exercises that target the rotator cuff muscles, such as external and internal rotation exercises, can be especially beneficial.

  • Maintain Good Posture - Poor posture can contribute to shoulder problems, including supraspinatus tendinopathy. To prevent this condition, it is important to maintain good posture, especially when sitting for extended periods of time.

  • Use Proper Lifting Techniques - Using proper lifting techniques can also help prevent supraspinatus tendinopathy. It is important to keep the shoulders back and down and use the legs to lift, rather than relying solely on the arms and shoulders when lifting heavy objects.

  • Stretch Regularly - Stretching the muscles around the shoulder joint can help improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Stretching exercises should be performed regularly, especially before engaging in activities that require repetitive or overhead motions.

  • Rest and Recover - Giving the shoulder adequate rest and recovery time is also important for preventing supraspinatus tendinopathy. Individuals should avoid overuse of the shoulder and take breaks as needed during activities that involve repetitive motions.


Supraspinatus tendinopathy can cause pain and discomfort in the shoulder joint and can limit a person's ability to perform daily activities. However, various treatment options are available, ranging from rest and activity modification to surgery, to help manage symptoms and promote healing. Additionally, individuals can take preventative measures, such as strengthening the shoulder muscles, maintaining good posture, using proper lifting techniques, and stretching regularly, to reduce their risk of developing this condition. Working with a healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan and prioritize prevention to maintain shoulder health is important.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Serious Is Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

Supraspinatus tendonitis should be moderately concerning, as it can cause pain and limited shoulder mobility. Seeking proper medical evaluation and following recommended treatments is important.


How Is Mild Shoulder Tendinopathy Described?

Mild shoulder tendinopathy is characterized by minor pain and discomfort in the shoulder area due to tendon inflammation. It typically involves rest, physical therapy, and a gradual return to activity.


What Are the Recommended Approaches for Managing Mild Supraspinatus Tendinopathy?

Managing mild supraspinatus tendinopathy involves a combination of rest, ice, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory measures. Avoiding overuse and incorporating proper shoulder mechanics are key.


Can a Complete Recovery Be Expected from Shoulder Tendinopathy?

Complete recovery from shoulder tendinopathy is possible with appropriate treatment, rest, and rehabilitation. However, individual healing timelines can vary.


Which Exercises Are Most Beneficial for Addressing Shoulder Tendinopathy?

Beneficial exercises for addressing shoulder tendinopathy include range-of-motion exercises, strengthening of surrounding muscles, and gradual progression to resistance exercises.


What Are the Common Treatment Methods for Supraspinatus Tendinopathy?

Common treatment methods for supraspinatus tendinopathy include physiotherapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, and lifestyle modifications.


Could You Elaborate on the Potential Seriousness of Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

Supraspinatus tendonitis can lead to chronic pain and impaired shoulder function if left untreated, underlining the need for early intervention.


What Is the Typical Healing Duration for Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

The healing duration for supraspinatus tendonitis can range from several weeks to a few months, depending on the severity and adherence to treatment.


Is Surgery a Necessary Consideration in Tendinopathy Cases?

Surgery is usually considered only when conservative treatments fail to alleviate symptoms and the condition significantly impairs daily life.


Are There Any Recent Advancements in Tendinopathy Treatment?

Recent advancements in tendinopathy treatment include regenerative therapies like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and focused shockwave therapy.


Which Dietary Choices Support the Management of Tendinopathy?

A diet rich in protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids can support the management of tendinopathy by promoting tissue repair and reducing inflammation.


Can You Explain What Infraspinatus Tendinopathy Involves?

Infraspinatus tendinopathy involves inflammation of the infraspinatus tendon, leading to pain and limited shoulder movement. It's managed similarly to supraspinatus tendinopathy.


Is a Complete Cure Achievable for Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

A complete cure for supraspinatus tendonitis is achievable with proper medical care, adherence to treatment, and lifestyle adjustments.


How Can One Enhance Sleep Comfort with Supraspinatus Tendonitis?

Enhancing sleep comfort with supraspinatus tendonitis involves using pillows and positions that relieve shoulder pressure and pain during sleep.


Is Surgical Intervention Commonly Required for Shoulder Tendinopathy?

Surgical intervention for shoulder tendinopathy is relatively uncommon and is usually considered as a last resort when conservative treatments are ineffective, or the condition is severe.
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Dr. Suman Saurabh
Dr. Suman Saurabh

Orthopedician and Traumatology


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