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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 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.


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