Supraspinatus Tendinosis: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

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Amy Albert

Amy is a Physician Assistant and certified professional coder. She holds a masters degree and has taught at the graduate school level.

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Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Supraspinatus tendinosis is a common source of shoulder pain in athletes and older adults. Symptoms range from mild discomfort to complete loss of function. Treatment consists of NSAIDs, physical therapy and occasionally arthroscopic surgery. Updated: 01/10/2020

Background Orthopedics Example

John is a 22-year-old male who complains to his orthopedic physician of right shoulder pain. He first noticed the discomfort several weeks ago after a long baseball game. The pain started as a mild ache and now is a constant throbbing pain. John has a very limited range of motion due the pain and has been unable to throw a baseball. Reaching overhead makes his shoulder hurt the most and he can't even brush his hair without any discomfort. Even while sleeping, his shoulder pain keeps him awake. John denies any injury to his right shoulder, though he has been playing baseball for many months without rest. After further examining John, the physician tells him that he has supraspinatus tendinosis. Fortunately for John, the condition is quite treatable and in several months he'll be back on the ball field.

The next patient is Sally. She's a 60-year-old female who is at the orthopedics office for follow up on her left supraspinatus tendinosis. Her occupational medicine physician referred her, as she's been working in hospitality for over 30 years and is no longer able to clean the hotel rooms anymore without shoulder pain. She's at the orthopedics office to discuss treatment for her supraspinatus tendinosis.

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Supraspinatus Tendinosis Definition

Tendinosis is inflammation of a tendon from overuse or repetitive strain. A tendon connects bone to muscle and the supraspinatus is one of the tendons in the shoulder. It's more commonly known as one of the rotator cuff tendons; therefore, supraspinatus tendinosis is inflammation of the supraspinatus, or rotator cuff tendon. Just like John, athletes that overuse their shoulder are susceptible to tendinosis. Older adults, like Sally, are also susceptible to supraspinatus tendinosis from chronic wear and tear on the shoulder joint.

Supraspinatus Tendinosis Symptoms

Most of the time a physician can make the diagnosis of supraspinatus tendinosis by the patient's history and findings on physical exam. Classic symptoms include pain and limited range of motion in the shoulder. Usually the pain is made worse by reaching overhead and the shoulder may feel weak. Simple movements like getting dressed and brushing hair is painful. Even sleeping on the affected shoulder may be uncomfortable. Your physician may order an x-ray to further examine the shoulder joint.

Supraspinatus Tendinosis Treatment

Fortunately for John and Sally, there are several treatment options for supraspinatus tendinosis. Conservative treatment is best and consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), ice, rest and physical therapy. Common NSAIDs are ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). These medications reduce inflammation and swelling and promote healing.

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Additional Activities

Exercise and Writing Prompt on Supraspinatus Tendinosis

Modified True or False


Check your knowledge of the lesson by determining whether the following statements are true or false. For this activity, print or copy this page on a piece of paper. Write TRUE if the statement is valid and FALSE if otherwise on the blank space provided. If the statement is FALSE, write down the word or phrase that makes it wrong.

_____ 1. Supraspinatus tendinosis is caused by inflammation of the supraspinatus tendon, which is one of the rotator cuff tendons in the elbow joint.

_____ 2. A common symptom of supraspinatus tendinosis is the limited range of motion of the shoulder making basic activities such as dressing up difficult.

_____ 3. Shoulder pain commonly becomes a disability among athletes and kids.

_____ 4. A tendon is a flexible but inelastic cord of tough fibers attaching a muscle to another muscle.

_____ 5. To examine and repair the damaged tissues in the shoulder, the patient may undergo arthroscopic surgery.

Answer Key

  1. FALSE, elbow
  2. TRUE
  3. FALSE, kids
  4. FALSE, another muscle
  5. TRUE

Writing Prompt

Blake is a star player in a well-known water polo team and is set to compete in the World Aquatics Championship. A few weeks before the competition, their group decided to have a practice match. In the final minutes of the match, the ball was passed to Blake and he directly threw the ball towards the goal. The ball went in and they won the game. After the game, Blake suddenly felt a cracking sensation on his shoulder followed with sharp pain. He felt weakness in his shoulder when rotating, flexing, or lifting things. Does this scenario indicate that Blake could be experiencing supraspinatus tendinosis? Why do you say so? Give a non-surgical first aid solution that Blake should probably take.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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