Supraspinatus Tendinopathy: All You Need to Know in 3 minutes

When people start throwing words around like "supraspinatus" it's easier to tune out than to try and learn a new dialect of the English language. In this post we describe for you where the supraspinatus is, how it comes to be angry and most importantly; what to do if someone tells you that this is your diagnosis!

The shoulder is made of four main bones: your shoulder blade, upper arm bone, collarbone and the last being the shoulder joint. Connecting these bones are a myriad of muscles, each performing their own functions to help us move our arms. Among those is the supraspinatus muscle located in your rotator cuff which attaches your shoulder blade and the top of your arm. It's easy to locate. If you take your right hand and place it on your left shoulder as though you were going to massage yourself. It starts here from your fingertips and goes out to the point of the shoulder. But this isn't where you feel the pain...

supraspinatus tendinopathy northern beaches
Where the supraspinatus is located

The supraspinatus tendon, like all other tendons in the body, is a band of fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. It's main role is to work as a stabiliser. It pulls the ball of the shoulder into the socket. Hence it is essential for shoulder mobility, as without it the ball would simply fall out of the socket (it's a little more complex than this, but you get the picture... it's important!).

Typical Presentation

People who present to Fixio Physio Dee Why have a few things in common:

  • the pain is on the point of the shoulder or the outside of the shoulder
  • they don't like lifting their arm out to the side
  • putting their hand behind their back causes discomfort

How did my supraspinatus tendon become irritated?

For nearly all cases of supraspinatus tendinopathy that results in shoulder pain, overuse is to blame. This overuse can occur over a long period of time (like being in a job that constantly has you working overhead) or a short period of time (like washing the car). When tendons become irritated and swollen, this is known as tendonitis.

At Fixio Physio Northern Beaches, shoulder pain caused by supraspinatus tendinopathy is commonly seen in our practice. Thanks to our supremely active population, shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints that we see at our Dee Why practice and of those, people suffering from supraspinatus tendinopathy make up a large percentage.

Is it the same as shoulder bursitis?

No, but the bursa can also be swollen when the supraspinatus tendon becomes swollen. If you have been told by a doctor you have shoulder bursitis, you need to read this.

I think I have it. What now?

The first step of recovery starts with a shoulder assessment by a shoulder expert. From here, an individualised treatment plan needs to be created. Unfortunately this isn't a cookie cutter approach and will require that the physiotherapist who is treating you takes into account your individualised factors; age, required function, goals. Your rehabilitation will definitely involve shoulder exercises and physio treatments such as manual therapy or dry needling to reduce inflammation and restore shoulder function. Unfortunately there are lots of health professionals who tell people to rest for this condition; yet shoulder experts know that it is the exact opposite. Rest will always result in the same thing... the pain goes away while you are resting but as soon as you start using it again it results in another painful shoulder.

At Fixio Physio Northern Beaches we are shoulder pain experts and understand the different shoulder conditions that can result in shoulder pain. Make an appointment today and get on your way to shoulder health!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Please consult a shoulder physiotherapist before starting any shoulder exercise program or making any changes to your shoulder treatment plan.


• Bryant, J., & O’Keeffe, M. (2018). The importance of shoulder range of motion in shoulder pain and shoulder injury rehabilitation.