Supraspinatus tendinopathy and bursitis are the most common injuries diagnosed in the shoulder. Although pain may originate from these structures, the cause is often related to how the shoulder joint moves and the interaction of the muscles of the shoulder working together to create movement. Being a tendinopathy, supraspinatus tendinopathy is an overuse condition, whereby the activity that you were recently doing exceeded the capacity that these tendons were able to handle.


A bursitis may have an acute or overuse cause. A bursa is a sac of fluid present in a joint to help reduce friction. They can become inflamed due to acute trauma or repeated irritation and compression.


What are the characteristics of activities that cause supraspinatus tendinopathy and bursitis?

  • Repetitive shoulder movement especially at or above 90 degrees e.g. swimming, tennis, throwing


Signs and symptoms of supraspinatus tendinopathy and bursitis

  • Pain in the shoulder as you lift your arm up in front or to the side, in particular past 90 degrees
  • Pain lying on the injured shoulder
  • Although painful, you are still able to reach full range


What does the science currently say?

  • Ultrasound results are not very accurate in imaging the shoulder. Therefore a finding of supraspinatus tendinopathy or bursitis may be coincidental and may not represent the true cause of your symptoms
  • Rotator cuff strengthening in the first 12 weeks of pain presentation may swell the tendon and lead to more pain


How can Physiotherapy help?

Your Physiotherapist will be able to:

  • Help you identify aggravating activities
  • Help you identify positions of comfort
  • Provide manual therapy to reduce pain, tightness, pins and needles and improve movement
  • Identify the biomechanics of your shoulder joint and guide you through strengthening and scapular stabilisation exercises to improve them