The supraspinatus tendon is a thick fibrous band of tissue that connects the supraspinatus muscle to the shoulder joint. The supraspinatus muscle is attached to the shoulder blade and aids in shoulder movement. The supraspinatus tendon is part of the rotator cuff, and rotator cuff injury or inflammation is a common source of shoulder pain in many patients. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the incidence of rotator cuff damage increases with age and is most frequently caused by degeneration of the tendon rather than injury from sports or trauma. A supraspinatus tear or inflammation can cause pain, joint swelling and difficulty raising the shoulder. Most cases of supraspinatus damage are treated conservatively; however, surgery may be required in severe cases.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, nonsurgical management of the supraspinatus tear can provide relief in approximately 50 percent of patients. Multiple reports have shown that these patients note an improvement in pain and improvement in motion and are generally satisfied with nonsurgical treatments. Therefore, a doctor may first recommend rest and ice therapy, particularly after the onset of the supraspinatus tear or supraspinatus damage. With rest and ice therapy, the ligament can heal on its own and the patient will notice a decrease in symptoms over time. Although a patient may notice a decrease in pain and swelling, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that strength does not tend to improve with nonsurgical treatments. Therefore, patients who require an increase in shoulder strength should strongly consider surgical treatment for supraspinatus injury.
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MedlinePlus, of the National Institutes of Health, states that medications may be used to treat a supraspinatus injury. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Therefore, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as naproxen, aspirin or ibuprofen may be prescribed to treat these symptoms. These medications are effective because they alter chemical signals related to pain and inflammation. When taken regularly, they can provide significant results. Although beneficial, NSAIDs may cause side effects that include dark urine, clay-colored stools, stomach pain and heart problems. If a patient experiences any of these side effects, he should immediately tell his doctor. In this case, the doctor may prescribe a different medication or decrease the dosage to reduce side effects.
The AAOS states that surgical treatment is indicated for a rotator cuff or supraspinatus tear that does not respond to conservative treatment and is associated with weakness, loss of function and limited joint motion. If a patient decides to have surgery, the surgeon will repair the torn supraspinatus tendon and attach it back to the shoulder joint. In most cases, a surgeon will recommend arthroscopic surgery, which involves three small holes in which a camera and two other surgical instruments are inserted. A surgeon can then use these tools to repair a damaged supraspinatus. Risks of arthroscopic surgery include infection, excessive bleeding, nerve damage, shoulder joint damage and excessive scarring of the shoulder joint. Therefore, all the risks and benefits of this procedure should be thoroughly discussed between the patient and his surgeon before proceeding.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.