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Understanding Shoulder Impingement

shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement, also called swimmer’s shoulder, is a condition that will cause pain in the shoulder due to a bursa or tendon rubbing against your shoulder blade. When someone has pain from shoulder impingement, it generally gets worse when they reach up, and the pain is consistent.

The shoulder comprises several connecting joints, tendons, and muscles, making it more vulnerable to injuries. If you are suffering from shoulder pain and having debilitating symptoms affecting your quality of life, consulting with an orthopedic doctor will ensure you mitigate further damage and get on the road to recovery sooner, and knowing when to see an orthopedic doctor is essential.

We will talk more in this article about shoulder impingement, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options that your doctor may recommend.

What Is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement is often caused by repetitive shoulder use that causes pain due to inflammation. The shoulder area is complex and is where the upper arm, shoulder blade, and collarbone meet. A group of muscles and tendons make up the area called the rotator cuff, which surrounds the shoulder joint to protect the bones, keeping the top of the upper arm in place. They also enable you to rotate and lift your arm.

When you have shoulder impingement, your rotator cuff catches or rubs against the acromion under the top of the shoulder where the rotator cuff sits.

Inside the shoulder is a joint fluid-filled sac called a bursa cushion that prevents the tendons from sticking when you move your shoulder and arm. When inflammation causes the muscles, tendons, and bones to push into the Bursa or against each other, the rotating cuff becomes irritated, causing shoulder impingement.

Symptoms Of Shoulder Impingement 

Most people with shoulder impingement will experience difficulty when lifting an arm beyond shoulder height. Other symptoms include:

  • Stiffness and throbbing in the shoulder
  • Swelling
  • Pain increases with use
  • Pain when putting the arm behind your back, over your head, or behind the back
  • Constant pain in your shoulder or arm

If you do not get treatment, the tendons in the rotator cuff may tear or wear down, leading to worsening pain, shoulder weakness, and difficulty using your shoulder and arm.

Causes of Shoulder Impingement

Overuse and repetitive use cause swelling in the tendons in your shoulder and cause them to snag up in your upper shoulder bone, which is the most significant cause of shoulder impingement. Activities and occupations that increase your risk for developing shoulder impingement include:

  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Softball
  • Packing 
  • Baseball 
  • Construction workers
  • Movers
  • Painters

Age can also contribute to developing shoulder impingement, and repetitive activities increase your risk for injury and other shoulder issues, including impingement and rotator cuff tears.

Getting Diagnosed By Your Doctor

Early diagnosis is essential as early treatment can also ensure symptoms do not worsen. Your doctor will physically examine your shoulder and ask questions about your symptoms, such as injury, swelling, or bruising. The doctor may also order imaging tests such as an MRI or an x-ray to rule out other possible reasons for the pain, such as bone spurs, arthritis, or injuries.

 Treatment for shoulder impingement

The majority of the time, conservative treatment for shoulder impingement is effective. Treatments can include:

  • Heat or ice may be alternated as needed for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
  • Physical therapy is an excellent treatment for shoulder impingement which usually responds well to Gentle exercises. The orthopedic doctor May refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in shoulder injuries at home to help you improve your range of motion and strengthen your muscles. These exercises can help you recover faster; just be sure not to overdo it.
  • Rest is essential to treat shoulder impingement and avoiding movement or strenuous exercises that cause you pain.
  • Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may help reduce pain and swelling in your shoulder. If over-the-counter medications don’t work, your doctor may prescribe steroid injections to help reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Elastic therapeutic tape called Kinesio taping
  • Surgery may be recommended by your orthopedic doctor for shoulder impingement if necessary. Your orthopedic surgeon will widen the space around the rotator cuff to help prevent friction. If your rotator cuff is torn, you may also need a surgical procedure to repair it. Generally, your doctor can do shoulder impingement surgery with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

Take Action Today And Call Thunder Basin Orthopaedics And Sports Medicine

When the pain is affecting your quality of life and you are suffering from pain in your shoulder, back, knee, or other areas of your body, at Thunder Basin Orthopaedics, we are here to help you get on the path to healing. Our surgeons are experienced and specialize in treating various orthopaedic injuries, including sports injuries. We look forward to serving you at one of our offices in Gillette and Douglas, Wyoming.

Contact us today to book an appointment and start getting your life back.