Tennis shoulder is a common injury, typically experienced by athletes. Also known as shoulder impingement syndrome, it can develop suddenly, or gradually. Patients may experience significant pain when lifting their arm, causing difficulty when playing sport or carrying out daily activities.
As Wimbledon makes its post-COVID comeback this month, now is the perfect time to learn more about treating tennis shoulder.
What is tennis shoulder?
Tennis shoulder, or shoulder impingement, is caused when a tendon within the shoulder rubs against nearby bone or tissue when the arm is lifted. It occurs within the rotator cuff at the top of the arm. Most of the time, the condition will improve by itself. However, there are times when it is reoccurring.
Swimmers, baseball players, and tennis players whose arms are frequently used overhead are especially vulnerable. Also at risk are people who carry out repetitive lifting or overhead activities with the arm, such as painting, and building. Minor injuries can also result in impingement.
Tennis shoulder symptoms to watch out for
Local swelling and tenderness of the shoulder are common symptoms of rotator cuff problems. Lifting your arm may cause pain and stiffness. Additionally, pain may be felt when an elevated arm is lowered.
There may be mild symptoms at the beginning, causing patients to delay seeking treatment. Typically, shoulder instability can produce the following symptoms:
- Pain on the outer and top part of the arm
- Pain that worsens when the arm is lifted, particularly above your head
- Weakness within the arm
- Aching or pain which worsens at night, causing difficulty with sleep
Stiffness is not usually a symptom of shoulder impingement. If you are experiencing any stiffness, it could be an indicator of frozen shoulder, rather than impingement.
What treatment options are available?
There are several options available for treating tennis shoulder, including physiotherapy, steroid injections, and surgery.
Most patients with shoulder impingement find physiotherapy exercises are enough to correct the issue. The goal of physio exercises is to strengthen the muscles within the joint and correct shoulder posture.
Steroid injections are used to eliminate the pain associated with the condition. The effects last a few weeks, and they are ideal for those suffering with more intense shoulder impingement pain. The only trouble with this form of treatment is that it is only recommended to be given to each patient twice. This is due to a risk of tendon damage if they are used in the long-term.
Surgery is typically used as a last resort for more severe cases of shoulder impingement. A subacromial decompression may be helpful.
In the procedure, the space surrounding the tendon of the rotator cuff is widened, ensuring it doesn’t rub or catch against anything.
Most cases of shoulder impingement can be corrected without surgery. However, it is a good idea to undergo a consultation with a shoulder specialist. This will help you to discover the best form of treatment for your shoulder impingement. To book an appointment with the London Shoulder Specialists call +44 (0) 203 195 2442.