What Is Shoulder Tendon Damage?

Tendons are the bands of tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. They help your body move smoothly and absorb shocks when you use your muscles. Shoulder tendon damage refers to injuries of the tendons in or connected to your shoulder. 

Tendon injuries sometimes occur because of the wear and tear of repetitive movements. They may also occur because of a traumatic injury. Shoulder tendon injuries can affect anyone, but they are most common in adults 35 and older.

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

Our orthopedic specialists at U of U Health provide expert treatment for shoulder tendon injuries. We are one of the only medical centers in the Mountain West region with a team specializing solely in shoulder conditions and we use technology not available elsewhere in our region. Our biomechanics testing laboratory allows us to simulate tendon repair surgeries and test new surgery techniques. This ensures we use methods that promote the best outcomes.

Our orthopedic specialists are at the forefront of treatment through research and clinical trials. We study genetics in evaluating what treatments work best for rotator cuff disease. Our participation in clinical trials also offers patients access to promising new therapies not found elsewhere in the region. We complete comprehensive follow-ups that focus on function improvements and pain reduction.

Find a Shoulder Specialist

Common Shoulder Tendon Injuries

The following conditions often cause shoulder damage and shoulder tendon injuries: 

  • shoulder bursitis (inflammation in your shoulder bursa, the fluid-filled sacs that cushion and protect your tendons),
  • shoulder tendonitis (inflammation in the tendons surrounding your shoulder), and
  • shoulder tendon tears, such as rotator cuff tears (the most common injury).

Risk Factors for Shoulder Tendon Injuries

The most common risk factors of shoulder tendon tears and injuries include:

  • age-related wear and tear;
  • history of shoulder tendon tears;
  • jobs that involve repetitive overhead movements, such as construction work or mining; and
  • participating in sports where you frequently reach your arm outward, such as football or water skiing.

Tendon Injury: Shoulder Symptoms

Shoulder tendon injury symptoms include:

  • inability to elevate your arm,
  • stiffness,
  • swelling,
  • tenderness,
  • weakness, or
  • shoulder pain that keeps you up at night or worsens when you lift your arm.

Shoulder Tendon Damage Diagnosis

To diagnose shoulder tendon damage, we will ask you about your symptoms and past injuries, including:

  • how severe the pain is,
  • where the pain is located, or
  • whether pain keeps you up at night.

We may also use strength and range of motion tests, such as moving your arm in specific ways to test each of the muscles and tendons in your rotator cuff.

You may also have imaging tests such as:

Should You Ice Tendon Injuries?

Applying ice to tendon injuries helps reduce inflammation. We may recommend icing your shoulder after exercise.

Shoulder Tendon Surgery

If you have a tendon tear and nonsurgical treatments don’t bring you relief, we may recommend surgery. Surgery may also be necessary to treat severe injuries that lead to shoulder tendon tear.

We usually use shoulder arthroscopy to repair a tendon tear. During your surgery, your orthopedic surgeon:

  1. makes small incisions around the shoulder joint,
  2. inserts surgical tools and a small lighted tool with a camera (arthroscope) through the incisions, and 
  3. reattaches the tendon or uses a tissue graft from a donor or your own body to repair it.

How Long Does It Take for a Shoulder Tendon to Heal?

Recovery time varies based on the shoulder injury type and severity. Mild to moderate tendonitis or bursitis often takes six and 12 weeks to heal. If you have a tendon tear, recovery time varies depending on the severity and your treatment plan. It can take up to six months for a shoulder tendon to heal after surgery. 

Make an Appointment with Our Orthopedic Specialists

Shoulder tendon injuries can worsen without treatment. CAll 801-587-7109 for a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists.

To refer a patient to our orthopedic services, please complete our physician referral form or call 866-850-8863 to speak with a physician referral specialist.

When to See an Orthopedic Doctor

If you're suffering from shoulder or elbow pain, you may not know when it's appropriate to seek out a specialist for pain relief. Learn how to spot the signs of severe or prolonged pain that can't be remedied at home.

When to Seek Help