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Shoulder Impingement

What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement results from the chronic compression or rubbing of tendons or bursae against the shoulder blade. It causes pain and inflammation, making it difficult to move the joint normally and can cause pain that is persistent and can inhibit daily activities such as getting dressed. Individuals with shoulder impingement find that overhead activities create the most discomfort.

What are the causes of shoulder impingement?

Several factors can be said to cause shoulder impingement syndrome, including:

  • Injury
  • Repetitive overhead movements
  • Certain sports, such as tennis or swimming
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Bone and joint abnormalities
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rotator cuff issues

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?

Symptoms include:

  • Weakness or pain when lifting arms overhead
  • Restricted movements of the shoulder joint, particularly overhead
  • Pain when sleeping or resting on the affected shoulder

Left untreated, shoulder impingement can cause other conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis or rotator cuff tears. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your physician to have your condition evaluated.

How is shoulder impingement diagnosed?

Your physician will perform a physical examination of your shoulder to evaluate the strength, mobility and stability of your joint.  Specific tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be ordered to get a detailed image of the damage. Your physician will also rule out other conditions, such as arthritis or rotator cuff tears, which may display similar symptoms.

How is shoulder impingement treated?

Shoulder impingement is treated with nonsurgical methods such as rest, reduction of physical activity and use of anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy and strengthening exercises can help to restore function and stability of the shoulder joint. In some cases, steroid injections are recommended if physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications are not successful. Most individuals with the syndrome find relief through strengthening exercises and medication.


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