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What Is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement happens when the top of your shoulder blade rubs against or squeezes the soft tissues underneath it when you lift your arm. This causes irritation or swelling in the rotator cuff, which is the group of muscles and tendons that cover your shoulder joint.

If you don’t have shoulder impingement treated, it can lead to tendinitis or even a tear of the rotator cuff.


Symptoms of shoulder impingement begin with discomfort in your shoulder and upper arm. Over time, the pain gets worse. Sleeping on the shoulder may become uncomfortable. The pain may eventually spread down as far as your forearm.

Causes and Risk Factors

Your shoulder is one of the most moveable and unstable joints in your body, so the risk of injuring it is higher. Causes of shoulder impingement include:

  • Overuse during work that requires moving your arms over your head.
  • Sports activities with overhead actions, such as baseball and tennis.
  • Aging, as soft tissues break down and weaken over time.

How Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of impingement syndrome begins with a medical history and physical exam by your doctor. X-rays will be taken to rule out arthritis and may show changes in the bone that indicate injury of the muscle. Bone spurs or changes in the normal contour of the bone may be present.

Treatment Options

Treatment of shoulder impingement may include:

  • Rest, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Ultrasound treatments to encourage blood flow to the injury.

If symptoms persist or if significant weakness is present, then your doctor may perform an ultrasound, MRI, or arthrogram to rule out a rotator cuff tear. If the impingement is severe, surgery is necessary to treat it(Arthroscopic Acromioplasty or Arthroscopic Subacromial decompression) , If the cuff is torn, surgery may be necessary to repair it.

The vast majority of people who have impingement syndrome are successfully treated with medication, stretching exercises, and temporary avoidance of repetitive overhead activity until the condition settles down.


Most patients with shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) find relief through rest and physical therapy. Pain medication can also be helpful, and in some cases, cortisone injections directly into the shoulder joint can reduce inflammation and pain, promoting healing. If pain persists and specific structures need attention, surgery becomes a viable option.

Shoulder impingement often improves with proper treatment, depending on its severity and duration. Most cases respond well to conservative treatment. With rest, physical therapy, and medication, inflammation, and pain can subside, and you can regain normal shoulder function. Consulting with an orthopedic doctor will help you understand the severity and treatment plans. This will help you prevent further injury, and with the right physical therapy and adhering to doctors’ advice will improve overall pain and a healthy life.

In most cases, shoulder impingement responds well to conservative treatment and improves within weeks to a few months. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for faster healing.

If you’ve had shoulder impingement for a prolonged period without treatment, it can take considerably longer to heal. Chronic inflammation can lead to scar tissue buildup, which might require more intensive therapy or even surgery in some cases.

Leaving shoulder impingement untreated can lead to several potential complications that can worsen the condition and limit your shoulder function in the long run.

Not treating on time can lead to chronic pain and inflammation, causing persistent discomfort and making daily activities difficult. This will cause stiffness and limited mobility over time. Left untreated, this stress can increase the risk of rotator cuff tears, a more serious injury requiring surgery for repair.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing these complications and ensuring recovery

Lifting weights with shoulder impingement is generally not recommended, as certain exercises can aggravate the condition. However, there might be ways to indulge in daily activities depending on the severity of your impingement. It is always recommended to take your orthopedic doctor’s advice and proper physiotherapy guidance.

A note from Impact Orthopedic Center:

Shoulder impingement can be a frustrating limitation, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, most people experience significant improvement and regain full use of their shoulder. Early intervention is key for faster recovery and preventing complications.

If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain, weakness, or limitations in movement, particularly for a prolonged period, consult an orthopedic doctor

Impact Orthopedic Center in India understands how shoulder pain can disrupt your daily life. Our team of experts utilizes the latest advancements in orthopedic care to diagnose and suggest the right treatment. We are committed to providing exceptional care and helping you achieve a better quality of life. Book your appointment today.

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