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Pain Concern
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Rotator cuff problem - anyone here left undiagnosed for a long time?

Hi everyone - I wonder if there's anyone else here with a rotator cuff problem, and specifically if you've had problems getting it diagnosed and treated quickly enough? I won't bore you with the details but basically I've had a catalogue of misdiagnoses since I first got shoulder pain several years ago. I have a fibromyalgia diagnosis, so there's a tendency for the doctors to attribute any pain I get to fibro. I'm sick of hearing from the doctors "it's just your fibro" or "it's just muscular". :-(

Anyway, I finally managed to persuade my doc to send me for an X-ray of my worst shoulder (they're both dodgy, but the right is much worse than the left). Seeing the results, the doc was suddenly galvanised into action and started to take me seriously. Apparently, there's some narrowing of a space in the bone where the muscle/tendons join the bone at the shoulder (I guess due to osteoarthritis? I have this in several other places). They now fear that the muscle/tendon has become frayed or torn. I've got an appointment for an ultrasound scan in a few weeks to take a better look at it. If there's no tear, they'll give me a guided steroid injection there and then. If there is a tear, it will be physiotherapy - with a possible op if physio doesn't work.

Anyway, I'm really annoyed that they've left me so long with this injury/problem. Everything I read about it says the sooner it's treated, the more likely it is to recover - but I've just been left to fester with it. Is there anyone else here who's had a rotator cuff injury left untreated for a long time? If so, have you been able to recover properly from it? Would love to hear. Thanks.

12 Replies


I have had this problem and had the steriod injection, this has worked very well for the past 4 years.

Good luck

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Hi AMJ35 - glad to hear the steroid injection has worked well for you. I'm hoping that they don't find a tear so that they can do this, but it's been left so long, and is so painful, I'm really expecting there to be a tear. Was yours diagnosed quickly or not?



I have a 1cm tear in the same muscle that happened last august when I had a fall. I didn't realise I had done any damage till the pain got worse. By the beginning of december it was very painful. It took till the second week of january to get the scan and also it revealed I have osteoarthritis too in the shoulder. I had my injection today and so I am hoping this does help to heal it. My doctor said if it didnt work I may need surgery but because the tear is small I should be ok. Fingers crossed.

Hope you get on ok.

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Hi Willow - sounds like yours has been caught in good time then. My doctor seemed to think that if there was a tear they wouldn't do the steroid injection - I wonder if she's wrong? Anyway, will have to wait and see what they say when they do the scan in a few weeks time.

Hope yours works well. Good luck! :-)

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Its now been shown that it isn't a good idea to have steroid injections into tendons at all, as they can dramatically increase the likelihood of tears. Sometimes doctors will do it once, but I personally wouldn't let anyone near a tendon with a steroid injection (even though I know steroids can reduce inflammation brilliantly)


Yes, I was told that they can weaken the soft tissues and make tears more likely. :-( Anyway, I'll have to see what happens when I go for the scan. If they say there isn't a tear I'd probably try the steroid injection (I had one in my arthritic ankle a few years ago and it worked great for a while). But if they say there's a tear I don't think I'd risk it!


Yes, my GP totally ignored mine. It wasn't until I saw a physio in another country (after a year of problems) that I actually got it dealt with properly. Mine is the result of enthesitis (inflammation at the point where tendon joins bone), which is part of my ankylosing spondylitis. If you hare showing that kind of damage on MRI, it might be worth pushing to get a rheumatology referral to rule out an inflammatory arthritis (like one of the spondyloarthritis group - ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis) as that can often get misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, especially in women. Interestingly, enthesitis points overlap a lot with fibro tender points, and it takes a skilled rheumatologist (with an interest in spondyloarthritis) to spot the difference.

In the meantime, don't let anyone give you a steroid injection into those tendons - steroids may give immediate relief, but they have now been shown to increase the likelihood of tendon rupture.

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Ah, rheumatologists! Not my favourite people. The last one I saw, who was supposed to be examining my shoulders, simply did the 18 tender point test and rediagnosed fibromyalgia - even though only four of the 18 points actually hurt (surprise, surprise - those were the four points on my shoulders!). She simply didn't believe me that the other points didn't hurt and muttered something about "some people have a higher pain threshold than others".

I've suspected something autoimmune-related for some time (RA runs in my family, and I have what my doctor calls "unexplained pain and swelling") but I can't find a doc who'll take me seriously. Blood tests are fine, therefore they say I'm fine too. :-(



I was diagnosed with tears in both shoulders but only after I had

Two series of physio for impingements.I was eventually sent

to a muscular clinic and I was x rayed both shoulders were torn

I had surgery on my right one because it was the worst of the two

The open went well but was very painful afterwards and you have to work very hard at the physio.That was 5 years ago and the shoulder is now fine.The other shoulder apart from the odd

twinge has not bothered me since.

I would say if your shoulder is giving you so much grief I'd advise you to have surgery.

I hope this helps.

Bob k.

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Thanks Bob. Sounds like yours was OK despite the delay in diagnosing, then. That's great. :-)

I'll just have to wait and see what the scan shows and go from there ...


You need an MRI scan. With a tear in the tendon you can get a build up of fluid. I had this. I doubt if an ultasonic will pick up the fluid if they are looking for a tear in the tendon. The MRI scan will determine the size of the tear. When I did my tendon in my biceps went rock hard. (Or my biceps went rock hard and I damaged the tendon).

A two week course of erythromycin was what I had after I had this diagnosis. It brought the pain down considerably. The pain went totally.

Google "erythromycin anti inflammatory"

Hope this helps

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Thanks, John. I didn't know that an MRI was probably needed, rather than an ultrasound. Ah well, I'll just have to see what happens at the ultrasound. Thanks for your advice.


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