Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

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We use our shoulders every day. From simple tasks like taking something off a shelf, throwing a ball, or other overhead activities, our shoulders are in constant use. Developing pain in our shoulders can be a real burden in our lives.

The most common condition that causes shoulder pain is shoulder impingement syndrome. This article will explore what shoulder impingement syndrome is, how to know whether you have it, and how to treat it.

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today! We have offices conveniently located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, OH. Our orthopedic surgeons look forward to helping you restore your shoulder movement.

What Is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition where the upper outer part of the shoulder blade, called the acromion, rubs against the rotator cuff tendons.

Your rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that form a cuff between your shoulder blade and upper arm bone. Your rotator cuff tendon passes through a small space under your acromion.

Your biceps tendon and bursa are also found in this space. If this space reduces in size, the bone will cause friction during shoulder movement. The friction caused by shoulder impingement causes pain and irritation.

The Causes of Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the acromion of your shoulder blade rubs against your rotator cuff tendons. The causes of shoulder impingement could include the following:

  • Your rotator cuff tendon becomes swollen or torn: This can happen through repetitive overuse of the shoulder and wear and tear that comes with aging or injury.
  • Your bursa becomes irritated or inflamed: The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that sits beneath the acromion. It helps tendons glide over bones without friction. Your bursa can become inflamed through overuse or injury.
  • You develop bone spurs: A bone spur can develop on the acromion, causing friction.

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?

Symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome usually develop gradually. The symptoms of shoulder impingement may include the following:

  • Pain and tenderness in the front of your shoulder.
  • Pain that moves from the front of your shoulder to the side of your arm.
  • Pain when lifting your arm, lowering your arm from a raised position, or reaching.
  • Pain when your arms are extended above your head.
  • Pain when lying on the affected side.
  • Pain or a dull ache at night, which interrupts your sleep.
  • Pain when reaching behind your back.
  • Shoulder and/or arm weakness and stiffness.

Shoulder impingement is linked to other conditions that cause shoulder pain, such as bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis. These conditions can develop because of the impingement in the shoulder or separately.

A full rotator cuff tear would cause more severe symptoms, such as the inability to lift your arm against gravity. As the impingement develops, there is also the possibility of tearing your biceps muscle tendon.

Who Is at Risk of Shoulder Impingement?

You are at a greater risk of developing shoulder impingement syndrome if you are involved in sports or activities which require you to lift your arm overhead in a rotational motion. Shoulder impingement also becomes more common as you age. 

Sports, such as swimming, volleyball, baseball, and tennis, are some examples of sports that can put you at a higher risk of developing shoulder impingement syndrome. Activities that can cause shoulder impingement syndrome can include painting and window washing. 

How to Diagnose Shoulder Impingement

Your diagnosis will begin with a physical exam and considering your medical history. During the physical exam, your doctor will test the range of motion of your shoulder joint. They will examine the shoulder with touch, looking for areas of sensitivity.

Your doctor will consider whether you had any previous shoulder injuries and whether these could have contributed to your shoulder pain. They will also ask if you participate in any activities where you repeatedly lift your arm over your head.

You may also be sent for image testing. X-rays can help rule out arthritis. They will also be able to detect bone spurs which can cause an impingement. Ultrasound and MRI scans can also be used to examine the structures of soft tissue, such as the rotator cuff and bursae. With an accurate diagnosis, treatment for shoulder pain can begin.

How Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Treated?

There are several treatment options used to treat shoulder impingement syndrome. The following are some of the treatments available at JIS Orthopedics:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will give you physical therapy exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and help you with your range of motion.
  • Medication: NSAIDs and steroid injections can be used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: If the above treatments do not work, surgery may be an option. Our surgeons use a minimally invasive procedure to open up the space inside the shoulder. The larger space will stop the friction from irritating the tendons. If the tendons tear, surgery may be needed to repair the tendons.

Get Shoulder Pain Relief Today!

At JIS Orthopedics, our surgeons are expertly trained to help relieve your shoulder pain. If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, schedule an appointment with our specialists today!

We have offices conveniently located in New Albany and St. Clairsville, OH. Our orthopedic surgeons look forward to helping you by addressing your shoulder pain with quality care.


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