Shoulder Tendonitis and Impingement

What is tendonitis and impingement?

The shoulder is a very mobile joint and its movement are controlled by the rotator cuff and deltoid muscles. The rotator cuff is a group of four deep flat tendons that blend together to surround the shoulder joint and hold the ball (humeral head) firmly within the socket (glenoid).

shoulder structure diagram

Any problem with these muscles and their tendons’ function can cause the shoulder to ride up and rub against the bone on the top of the shoulder (acromion) causing jamming of the tendons (impingement).

When the tendons in the rotator cuff become damaged and inflamed this causes impingement of those tendons creating discomfort.

Shoulder tendonitis


occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become irritated or damaged.

Shoulder impingement


results when the acromion rubs against (or impinges on) the tendon and bursa, which consequently causes irritation and pain.

What causes shoulder impingement?

Impingement can occur when a person overuses or injures a tendon, for example, during sport. It is normally linked to an acute injury with inflammation as a result.

There are three main causes:

    1.  Lack of rotator cuff muscle strength or control
    2.  Loss of  shoulder  flexibility  (especially  the  capsule at  the  back  of  the  shoulder)  causing  the shoulder to hinge forward and jam on movement
    3.  Lack of space between the humeral head and the acromion

Who is prone to this condition?

Some people are at higher risk of developing impingement injuries and tendonitis due to the nature of their daily activities (such as sports people). Muscle imbalance and naturally varying bone structure can also play a part in the susceptibility to these injuries.

Treatment options

Shoulder impingement and tendonitis are common problems in the shoulder but usually settle with time, simple exercise and avoidance of aggravating activities. The treatment options for shoulder tendonitis and impingement are conservative and quite easy to integrate into your lifestyle.

Some treatment options include:

  • Resting the joint
  • Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication
  • Periodic physiotherapy
  • Steroid injections


If you would like to discuss the shoulder impingement or tentonitis further, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our rooms.


Download our information sheet to learn more about Shoulder Tendonitis and Impingement and treatment options.