Shoulder Impingement Syndrome


Shoulder impingement syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in the shoulder are irritated, inflamed or degenerated from repetitive overhead motions or structural abnormalities in the shoulder.


The shoulder is composed of three bones. The humerus (arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade).  Four muscles at the shoulder form the rotator cuff, and these muscles allow the arm to rotate and move upward to the front, back, and side.


Shoulder impingement is common in sports that involve repetitive overhead motions or throwing, such as swimming, surfing, baseball, and volleyball. In shoulder impingement, the rotator cuff and bursa get pinched or impinged underneath the acromion during overhead activities, resulting in pain. This can also be caused by the shape of your bones in the shoulder, or it can be caused by arthritis as you age.


Shoulder impingement syndrome causes a generalized aching pain in the shoulder and upper arm. You may feel weakness and pain when you raise your arm for activities, such as combing your hair or putting on a shirt. Pain at night is typical and may interfere with sleep.


Your doctor can diagnose shoulder impingement syndrome by reviewing your medical history and examining your shoulder. X-rays are ordered to check for bone spurs or acromion abnormalities. An MRI may be used to show more detailed pictures of your shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff, the muscles, and joint capsule.


Physical therapy can help to treat shoulder impingement syndrome by helping you to regain the loss of range of motion, and also by helping you strengthen weakened muscles in the shoulder. They will guide you to icing the area to decrease pain and inflammation.

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