Tennis Shoulder is a tearing and swelling of the rotator cuff (the muscles and
tendons that hold the upper arm in the shoulder joint).
Causes of Tennis Shoulder
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone
(humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head
of the humerus into the scapula.
Tennis Shoulder often occurs in sports that require the arm to be moved over the head
repeatedly, such as pitching in baseball, lifting heavy weights over the shoulder, serving
the ball in racket sports, and swimming freestyle, butterfly, or backstroke. Repeatedly
moving the arm over the head causes the top of the arm bone to rub against part of the
shoulder joint and its tendons, tearing individual fibers. If the movement is continued
despite the pain, the tendon can tear or actually pull off part of the bone.
Symptoms of Tennis Shoulder
With Tennis Shoulder you may have pain, tenderness, and swelling in your shoulder. At
first you may only have pain while you are lifting your arm over your head and moving your
arm forward. Later you may even have pain when you move your arm forward to shake hands.
You will probably have pain when you push an object away but not when you pull it toward
you. Or, you may have pain at rest.
- Pain associated with arm movement
- Pain in the shoulder at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder
- Weakness with raising the arm above the head, or pain with overhead activities (brushing
hair, reaching for objects on shelves, etc.)
Treatment of Tennis Shoulder
The injured shoulder should be rested from the activities that
caused the problem and from activities that cause pain.
Ice packs applied to the shoulder and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will help
reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff should be started. If
the pain persists or if therapy is not possible because of severe pain, a steroid
injection may reduce pain and inflammation enough to allow effective therapy.
If the rotator cuff has sustained a complete tear, or if the symptoms persist despite
conservative therapy, surgery may be necessary. Arthroscopic surgery can remove bone spurs
and inflamed tissue around the shoulder. Small tears can be treated with arthroscopic
surgery although larger tears require open surgery through a larger incision to repair the