All about Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs as the result of chronic and repetitive compression or “impingement” of the rotator-cuff tendons in the shoulder, causing pain and movement problems. It can also be caused by an injury to the shoulder. People who perform repetitive or overhead arm movements, such as manual laborers or athletes who raise their arms repeatedly overhead (ie, weightlifters and baseball pitchers), are most at risk for developing a shoulder impingement. Poor posture can also contribute to its development. If left untreated, a shoulder impingement can lead to more serious conditions, such as a rotator cuff tear. Physical therapists can help decrease pain, and improve shoulder motion and strength in people with shoulder impingements.

What is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition that develops when the rotator-cuff tendons in the shoulder are overused or injured, causing pain and movement impairments. Shoulder impingement syndrome may also be referred to as “subacromial” impingement syndrome because the tendons, ligaments, and bursa under the “acromion” can become pinched or compressed. The shoulder is made up of 3 bones called the humerus, the scapula, and the clavicle. The acromion is a bony prominence on the top of the scapula, which can be felt as a bump at the tip of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff tendon and the bursa sit beneath the acromion. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that provides a cushion between the bony acromion and the rotator cuff tendon, and it can become compressed underneath the acromion. Impingement symptoms can occur when compression and microtrauma harm the tendons. There are several causes to shoulder impingement syndrome including:

– Repetitive overhead movements, such as golfing, throwing, racquet sports, and swimming, or frequent overhead reaching or lifting.

– Bony abnormalities of the acromion, which narrow the subacromial space.

– Injury, such as a fall, where the shoulder gets compressed

– Poor rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscle strength, causing the humeral head to move abnormally.

– Thickening of the bursa.

– Thickening of the ligaments in the area.

– Tightness of the soft tissue around the shoulder joint called the joint capsule.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

It is important to get proper treatment for shoulder impingement as soon as it occurs. Secondary conditions can result from the impingement of the tissues in the shoulder, including irritation of the bursa and rotator-cuff tendinitis or tears.

Physical therapy can be very successful in treating shoulder impingement syndrome. You will work with your physical therapist to devise a treatment plan that is specific to your condition and goals. Your individual treatment program may include:

– Pain Management

– Manual Therapy

– Range-of-Motion Exercise

– Strengthening Exercises

– Patient Education

– Functional Training

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