28 Jun Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain. This condition is caused when the tendon inside the shoulder rubs or catches on the surrounding tissue or bone as you lift your arm. It is typically the Rotator Cuff Tendon (RCT) that is affected as it connects the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint to the top of the arm. The RCT catches or rubs against the bone known as the acromion. The acromion is found at the top of the subacromial space, a narrow passage at the top of the shoulder that the RCT passes through when lifting the arm.
The rubbing or catching of the tendon on or against the acromion can be caused by:
- the tendon becoming swollen or torn, often a result of an injury, repetitive overhead motions, or wear and tear from ageing;
- an injury or overuse of the shoulder which causes the bursa (cushioning fluid-filled sacs) between the RCT and acromion to become inflamed and/or irritated; or
- the acromion being curved or hooked instead of flat. This may be something that one is either born with or is due to bone spurs on the acromion that develop with age.
Shoulder impingement syndrome is commonly seen in active individuals who participate in activities that require repetitive overhead motions (e.g., swimming, tennis, window cleaning, etc.).
Symptoms associated with this condition include:
- pain when the arms are extended above the head;
- pain when lifting or lowering arm from a raised position and/or when reaching;
- pain and tenderness in the front of the shoulder;
- pain that moves from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm;
- pain when lying on the affected side;
- pain or achiness at night, making it difficult to sleep;
- pain when reaching behind your back;
- weakness of the shoulder and arm; and
- stiffness of the shoulder and arm.
If you are diagnosed with this condition, it is best to avoid activities that make the pain worse. However, you should not stop moving the arm entirely.
Treatment for shoulder impingement is aimed at reducing pain and restoring shoulder function. A treatment plan would generally include:
- icing the shoulder for approximately 20 minutes a day,
- taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medication if and as recommended by your doctor,
- using steroid injections (this will only be administered if deemed necessary by your doctor), and
- physical therapy.
An impinged shoulder can improve over a few weeks, especially when prescribed appropriate shoulder exercises.
Osteopathic treatment for this condition may include many techniques such as soft tissue therapy, stretching, joint mobilization, dry needling, and/or strengthening exercises.
At OsteoVision, our team of specialists are always available to assist you and offer advice. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your symptoms, have any questions, would like to book an appointment or simply require more information about shoulder impingements.
Kurrle, R., 2017. Shoulder impingement explained – East Gippsland Osteopathic Clinic. [online] East Gippsland Osteopathic Clinic. Available at: Shoulder Impingement Explained [Accessed 15 February 2022].
nhs.uk., 2020. Shoulder impingement. [online] Available at: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome [Accessed 14 February 2022].