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What is shoulder impingement?

Do you ever get a pain in your shoulder when reaching overhead? Sometimes this can happen with out any mechanism of injury.

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint which moves in several directions and planes of motion. Due to the complexity of the joint it is susceptible to injury. Impingement Syndrome is a common cause of pain to the shoulder joint.

Shoulder impingement is when soft tissue such as tendon or bursa get pinched between bones of the shoulder. The pain usually occurs with overhead activities and repetitive overuse activities.

How does this happen?

Impingement syndrome is most likely due to muscle imbalance contributing to abnormal mechanics when reaching overhead or when lifting. Also there could be bone spurs or arthritis which could contribute to impingement as well.

Stage 1 Impingement

  • Feeling of slight ache after overhead activities causing inflammation within the joint.

Stage 2 Impingement

  • Inflammation progresses and rotator cuff tendons thicken becoming more prone to impingement and injury

Stage 3 Impingement

  • Abnormal bone formation cause further complications within the joint. These include bone spurs, calcifications, and osteophytes.

Stage 4 Impingement

  • Severe bony changes and only can be treated with surgery.

How to treat this?

It is best to treat this earlier than later. Most cases can be treated with conservative measures like physical therapy. It is important to identify which movements trigger the pain and to avoid situations which may aggravate symptoms. Ice may help to reduce inflammation within the joint. Strengthening postural muscles and stretching areas of the shoulder which are tight are helpful with correcting shoulder mechanics to reduce symptoms and return to pain free movement.

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