Non-traumatic chronic shoulder pain is not associated with changes in rotator cuff interval tendon thickness

      Highlights

      • The results suggest that non-traumatic chronic shoulder pain does not alter the thickness of the tendons.
      • The thickening of the tendon is possibly rather an early traumatic or mechanical loading response.
      • The tendon thickness cannot explain differences in pain perception.
      • The tendon thickness should not be used as an indicator of shoulder pain-function in chronic conditions.

      Abstract

      Objective

      To determine whether the thickness of the rotator interval tendons is different when comparing both symptomatic and non-symptomatic sides in people with chronic shoulder pain, and to those free of pain. Furthermore, to calculate the level of association between the rotator interval tendon thicknesses and perceived shoulder pain-function.

      Design

      A cross-sectional, observational study.

      Method

      The supraspinatus, subscapularis and biceps brachii tendon thickness of sixty two patients with chronic shoulder pain were determined from standardized ultrasonography measures performed on both shoulders, whereas only the dominant arm was measured for the control subjects.

      Findings

      Supraspinatus, subscapularis and biceps brachii tendon thickness was comparable between sides in the symptomatic group and was also comparable between the symptomatic and asymptomatic participants. In addition, the correlation between the tendon thickness and shoulder pain-function was non-significant.

      Interpretations

      Tendon thickness was unaltered in people with chronic shoulder pain. These findings do not rule out the possibility that other changes in the tendon are present such as changes in the elastic properties and cell population and this should be explored in future studies.

      Keywords

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