Shoulder Impingement: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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Learn what shoulder impingement is and how it can affect your body with these helpful questions and answers.
In this article:

  1. What Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
  2. Why Does Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Happen?
  3. What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?
  4. Who Is at Risk of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
  5. When Do You Need to See a Doctor?
  6. How Do You Treat Shoulder Impingement?
  7. Where Do You Put Ice When You Have Shoulder Impingement?
  8. How Do You Prevent Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder Impingement | Everything You Need to Know


What Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is one of the common causes of shoulder pain. It occurs when the tendons of your rotator cuff muscles swell or become irritated as they pass through your subacromial space, the pathway beneath the acromion.
The acromion is the large bony projection of your shoulder blade and is a muscle attachment point important to your shoulder joint’s function.
This condition can result in weakness of the shoulder, pain, and even loss of movement. If left untreated, your rotator cuff tendons can begin to tear or become thin.

Why Does Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Happen?

One common reason for shoulder impingement is the overhead activity of the shoulder, especially repetitive ones. This may result from lifting, tennis, swimming, and painting.
Another cause for this condition is bone and joint abnormalities.
Improper training and intensive workouts may also cause shoulder impingement.

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?

Early symptoms are mild, and those who experience this may only feel slight pain on the shoulders.
Progression of shoulder impingement may include the following common symptoms:

  • pain and stiffness when lifting the arm
  • pain in the arm when lowered from an elevated position
  • minor pain when the arm is at rest or when doing an activity
  • pain radiating from your shoulder front to the side of your arm
  • sudden pain when reaching or lifting something
  • pain when throwing and serving balls for tennis players

You may also feel these symptoms as the condition worsens:

  • pain at night
  • loss of movement and strength
  • difficulty doing activities that place the arm behind the back like zippering and buttoning
  • tenderness on the affected shoulder

Who Is at Risk of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

tennis player pain in shoulder | Shoulder Impingement: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment | rotator cuff
Tennis players commonly suffer from shoulder impingement.

This condition is most common in young athletes who perform repetitive shoulder movements, like swimmers and tennis and badminton players. Working individuals whose jobs involve repetitive overhead activities and lifting, such as electricians, carpenters, and painters, are also prone to this condition.
People who usually have poor posture are candidates for developing impingement as well.
RELATED: Shoulder Joint Structure, Muscles, And How To Treat Effusion | Glenohumeral Joint

When Do You Need to See a Doctor?

It’s time you visit a physician when you feel that your shoulder pain is getting worse over a long period of time and is hindering you from doing your daily activities. More so if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above.
Additionally, you need to seek immediate medical assistance when shoulder pain is interrupting your sleeping pattern.

How Do You Treat Shoulder Impingement?

You can take oral anti-inflammatory medications for this condition, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Doctors may prescribe this treatment to be taken for six to eight weeks.
Every individual reacts to drugs differently. Some may take the treatment for a short period, while others take it longer.
You can also follow some other treatments to help relieve symptoms of shoulder impingement:

  • rest
  • avoiding activities that can put stress on your shoulder
  • shoulder impingement exercises and stretches, such as arm wall slides and thoracic extensions on a foam roll
  • cortisone injections for pain relief

Where Do You Put Ice When You Have Shoulder Impingement?

One effective and natural way to relieve pain caused by shoulder impingement is to apply a cold compress or ice to the affected area. But, where exactly do you place it?
The correct place to apply ice is at the tip of your shoulder. Leave it on for 15 minutes.
Do this shoulder impingement treatment thrice a day until you feel some improvements or as advised by your doctor.
Placing ice over the tip of your shoulder allows the coldness to run down the muscles in your shoulder to your arm, where pain usually extends to. The cold therapy numbs and reduces blood flow in the affected area, reducing pain and tenderness.

How Do You Prevent Shoulder Impingement?

Just like any other type of injury, there are also several ways you can prevent this condition. It only needs your discipline to make these practices effective:

  • Perform Smart Training

One major cause of shoulder impingement is when you force an intensive workout too soon. If you are a beginner at doing exercise or have not performed workouts for years, you need to do the training step by step, from light to heavy ones.
You can seek advice from a personal trainer so they can guide you on the correct way of performing your physical activity.

  • Avoid Repetitive Lateral Raises Above 90 Degrees

Lateral raises above 90 degrees are those arm raises that are at an ear level. When you raise your arm to the side, your shoulder must rotate externally to avoid impingement.
If there is a need to raise your arm like this many times, make sure you do it slowly to minimize damage.

  • Balance Your Muscles

People often neglect the muscles around the shoulder blade and focus on developing muscles in the chest and the front of the shoulder, which leads to unstable shoulder blades and inflammation later on.
If you do push exercises, partner them with a pull workout to balance your muscles. It applies the same to doing activities like lifting.
You need to ensure you can perform pushing activities at some point to balance the pressure on your muscles.

  • Watch Your Posture

Consistent poor posture can also lead to shoulder impingement. Do not slouch forward when sitting too long as it reinforces bad shoulder movements, which can easily lead to swelling.
Keep your chest open, shoulders back, and shoulder blades steady as this helps enhance your posture.

  • Keep Inflammation Under Control

Treating a little amount of inflammation can significantly impact inflammation levels in your body. When you feel a little pain in your shoulder as a result from swelling, treat it right away.
You can simply apply ice to help relieve the symptoms.
Wanna know more about shoulder impingement? Watch this video from Dr. David Geier:

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a serious condition that needs special attention right away. It can prevent you from doing regular tasks that can significantly affect your daily routine.
Avoid straining your shoulder and follow preventive measures to make sure you don’t cause any injury to the area.
What other preventive measures for shoulder impingement can you share with us? Let us know in the comments section.
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Shoulder Impingement: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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