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The supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts via the tendon at the top of the arm or humerus bone. It is one of the rotator cuff muscles.
Symptoms of an inflamed supraspinatus tendon include pain and weakness when the arm is lifted up sideways which is worse through a 60 degree arc during the midsection of the movement. There may be pain and tenderness when pressing in at the front and inside of the upper arm where the tendon attaches to the humerus. To distinguish between a tendon injury and a bursa injury there is likely to be more pain when moving the arm sideways against resistance with a tendon injury.
What is the supraspinatus tendon?
The supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts via the tendon at the top of the arm (humerus bone). It is one of the rotator cuff muscles. This muscle is used to lift the arm up sideways and is also important in throwing sports as it is the muscle that holds the arm in the shoulder when you release what you are throwing. There are massive forces involved in slowing the arm down after you have thrown something but few people bother to train these muscles. A heavy fall onto the shoulder can also result in injuring this muscle.
Over the tendon is a bursa (small sack of fluid used to help lubricate the moving tendon). This bursa can also become trapped inflamed (see bursitis).
The athlete is more prone to this injury if they overuse the shoulder particularly if the arm is at or above shoulder level. Or if you have had a rupture of the supraspinatus tendon.
Treatment of an inflamed supraspinatus
What can the athlete do?
Rest until there is no pain. They must however continue pain free mobility exercises to keep the full range of movement in the shoulder. Apply ice initially to ease pain and inflammation. See a sports injury specialist or doctor who can advise on rehabilitation.
What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?
A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. A full rehabilitation program consisting of mobility, stretching and strengthening exercises will be advised. If bursitis is involved the doctor can aspirate or stick a needle into the bursa and suck out the extra fluid. A surgeon may operate with persistent problems.
You can often get back to modified training within 1 to 3 weeks, but if you do not look after it, it will become chronic and cause more serious problems.