Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome is among one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. This article will explore what causes shoulder impingement and how the pain associated with it can be relieved.

Overview of shoulder impingement syndrome

The shoulder is a complex joint that is supported and stabilized by the rotator cuff, or a thick band of muscles and tendons that connects the head of the upper arm bone and the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff allows the shoulder to move normally and smoothly.

Sometimes, though, the rotator cuff can rub against the acromion, or the bone that rests on the top of the shoulder. When you lift your arm overhead, the space between the rotator cuff and acromion shrinks, meaning the bone can impinge on the muscles or tendons of the rotator cuff.

Between the rotator cuff and the acromion is a fluid-filled sac that lubricates the space where the rotator cuff meets the bone called the bursa. Shoulder impingement syndrome often leads to inflammation of the bursa as the acromion can rub against it.

In this condition, the rotator cuff can become inflamed and irritated, which is often painful and may limit your arm movement. Luckily, many treatments are available to help find relief from pain associated with shoulder impingement syndrome.

Causes of shoulder impingement syndrome

Shoulder impingement is typically caused by repetitive stress to the shoulder that results in wear-and-tear on the joint and the rotator cuff. If the shoulder starts to become inflamed, the swelling can make it easier for the rotator cuff to rub against the acromion.

Sports that involve repeated overhead movements, like swimming and baseball, can increase your risk of developing shoulder impingement syndrome. Overuse from any sort of overhead lifting or shoulder movements can lead to inflammation in the shoulder, which contributes to the risk of impingement. 

Symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome

Common symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome include

  •       Pain in the shoulder (especially pain that gets worse at night or radiates into the arm)
  •       Stiffness
  •       Tenderness
  •       Weakness
  •       Difficulty moving the affected shoulder for normal activities
  •       Limited range of motion

If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention to prevent your condition from getting worse.

Treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome

Initial conservative treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome include

  •       Rest and avoiding activity that further stresses the shoulder
  •       Ice to relieve inflammation
  •       Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  •       Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the affected shoulder
  •       Corticosteroid injections to relieve inflammation

If the case is more severe, surgery may be necessary to treat the impingement. Surgery may be performed arthroscopically using a small incision and narrow instruments guided by a camera inserted into the shoulder.

In some cases, open surgery may be required so that the surgeon has a full view of the rotator cuff and acromion. During the procedure, the surgeon may remove part of the acromion or damaged tissue from the rotator cuff or bursa.

An orthopaedic specialist will determine the best treatment plan based on the individual case.

Treating shoulder impingement at OAR

At OAR, our orthopaedic specialists and surgeons are well-equipped with a wide range of innovative treatments to help you get back to doing the things you love. We are committed to working with you to figure out the best course of treatment for your unique situation.

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.

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