Dear Dr. Millett,

I play varsity football and have been having a lot of pain and tenderness in my shoulder. It is preventing me from practicing and playing and my team doctor recently told me that I have “shoulder tendonitis”. How long should it take me to recover?

Thanks, Scott.

Hi Scott,

I see this quite often with athletes at higher levels. Because there are so many different types and severities of “shoulder tendonitis,” it is not appropriate to suggest a specific timetable for recovery. Most of the time ‘tendonitis” in the shoulder either affect the rotator cuff tendons – which manifests as pain over the outside part of the upper arm – or the biceps tendon – which manifests itself as pain in the front of the shoulder that can run down into the biceps muscle. If in fact it is simply tendonitis from overuse, your pain should subside within several weeks if you have the proper increments of rest and exercise for the shoulder.

If however the pain persists with self-treatment, then the problem may be more severe and require further treatment. You should seek the care of a qualified doctor who can evaluate the problem properly. Additional tests such as x-rays and an MRI may be needed. Once the diagnosis is correctly made, then the appropriate treatment program can be initiated. Most cases of shoulder tendonitis can be resolved without surgery but on occasion surgery may be needed to correct the problem.