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How I Healed My Shoulder Tendinitis

Shoulder Tendinitis is a common cause of shoulder pain. A more accurate term for it is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis. It means that one or more of tendons that make up the rotator cuff are inflamed. In my experience, even though this is not a serious injury, it is often debilitating and takes a long time to heal. I have had three recurring episodes of shoulder tendinitis in the last one year. I tried a variety of treatments but in the end, Kinesiology Tape along with frequent icing proved to be the most effective approach.
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Here is an account of my experience.

The initial symptoms

I developed shoulder tendinitis for the first time in my life due to shoulder pull ups. I was doing the pull ups as a part of a physiotherapy regimen to help me become functional after multiple years of disabling neck pain. Since I was also suffering from chronic abdominal pain, I was unable to lift any weights. So in order to rebuild the upper body strength, the physiotherapist suggested that I do partial shoulder pull ups where I lift my body only a few inches above the ground.

A few weeks into the regimen, I was making steady progress. I increased the reps and also the intensity of exercise. However, perhaps I did it much faster than my body could tolerate. I started to experience pain lasting several hours every time I performed the exercise. Initially, I dismissed it as a case of delayed onset muscle soreness.

 One day, however, I had sharp shooting pain in my dominant right shoulder while performing a rep. I immediately discontinued the exercise and started applying ice. The pain subsided. After 2 days, I attempted the exercise once again. However, I did not reduce the intensity of the exercise. Big mistake! The pain reappeared after a few hours. I completely discontinued pullups but continued with the other shoulder exercises. Big mistake again! The pain increased. I started having it 24 x 7. It was difficult to sleep at night on the side of the affected shoulder. I also noticed some inflammation in the painful region. Ultimately, a week after the onset of injury, I went to see the physiotherapist. He asked me to take complete rest, ice the area and asked me to return after 3 days. On the next visit, the inflammation had decreased a bit so the physiotherapist was able to palpate and examine the shoulder. He said that I had developed Bicipital Tendinitis . His suggested treatment was rest, icing and ultrasound for 3 days followed by myofascial therapy. He referred me to a doctor who prescribed Anti-Inflammatories. That did not make much difference. I then visited an Ayurvedic doctor. He prescribed trayodashang guggul but that also did not help. By this time, it was difficult for me to do any activities of daily living like brushing the teeth , getting dressed, chopping vegetables etc. In medical jargon, any activity that required supination and pronation of the arm was extremely painful.

Treatment with kinesiology tape

Eventually, after another 2 weeks, I asked him if he can consider applying the kinesiology tape. He said if the tape was applied, he would not be able to do ultrasound therapy. Further, icing would also not be effective and that would delay the recovery. Nevertheless, I asked him to go ahead with the taping anyway. Within a few minutes of applying the tape, I felt a great decrease in pain. We then settled on a protocol where he would change the tape every 3 days and would do myofascial therapy and then again reapply the tape. I did this for another 10 days and then realized that even myofascial therapy was flaring me up. Changing the tape every 3 days also was not feasible because of the bruises that I would sustain due to frequent removal and reapplication. So, four weeks after the onset of injury, my only treatment was the application of kinesiology tape 24 x 7 with changes every 4-6 days and icing 3 to 4 times per day. Furthermore, I started using my left arm instead of the right as much as possible.

The pain gradually started to lessen. The difference would only be noticed on a week to week basis rather than on a day-to-day. However, the fact that the pain was reducing in itself encouraged me to continue with the protocol.

It was another six-week before I was finally able to become a bit functional. So in all, it took me 8 weeks to recover. After yet another 6 weeks of mild strengthening exercises with theraband I was able to resume my daily activities.

Recurring episodes of shoulder tendinitis 

I again embarked on a strengthening routine minus the pullups of course. A few months later, I added a new exercise called Tricep Dips. I had done perhaps three reps when I again experienced the by now familiar sharp and shooting pain. This time I avoided any other therapeutic modalities and just stuck to kinesiology taping and icing. Sure enough, after 6 weeks I was okay.  I later learned that tricep dips is not a recommended exercise for people with shoulder issues. About 7 months later, I fell into the gutter again. This time I accidentally lifted a 1 kg weight in an awkward position. Same problem Same solution. And once again it took 6 weeks for me to recover.

The science behind kinesiology tape 

Despite the immense benefits that I experienced with the kinesiology taping, the science behind it is not very convincing. This article on the popular website for sports and health  "Research is still ongoing, but most of the sofa point to the answer: probably not." 

In an article published in 2010, Wall Street Journal  says "Even if taping does work in the hands of a trained clinician, it isn't clear it will work when used by consumers.

A 2013 article from a physiotherapist at RockTape, a kinesiology tape manufacturing company, concedes "If I’m really honest there is much we don’t know about what tape can and can’t help, how it does what it does, what system within your body it is affecting. ". Theories include better circulation because of the tape elastic properties 'lifts' the skin vertically creating more space for the blood to flow, stabilization and muscle support.

Of course, the companies that sell kinesiology tape also list research papers on their website to support the claim that kinesiology tape is a beneficial therapy. Theratape has got an education section here. One of the research papers listed on the website states "Kinesiology taping may be an alternative treatment option in the treatment of shoulder impingement syndrome especially when an immediate effect is needed".

In spite of the lack of scientific evidence, I have seen that kinesiology tape has helped me in all the three episodes of shoulder tendinitis much more than any other therapy. Taping is a relatively new technique and it may be possible that the research community will take some time to come up with an explanation of how it works.

With limited negative side effects, I continue to advocates its usage control and perhaps, even eliminate shoulder pain.

Disclaimer: this blog post is for information purposes only.  It is an individual is opinion based on his experience and may not apply to your case. Always consult your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.



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