What is shoulder impingement?

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One of the usual complaints of many individuals is shoulder pain and one of the cause is shoulder impingement. The shoulder is comprised of several joints including muscles and tendons that allow a wide range of movement to the arm. Due to the various structures, the shoulder is prone to various issues including shoulder impingement. Remember that the rotator cuff is a common source of shoulder pain.

What are the causes of shoulder impingement?

The rotator cuff pain is common in both middle-aged individuals and young athletes. Sports enthusiasts who utilize their arms overhead face the highest risk for shoulder impingement. Those who perform repetitive lifting or overhead activities involving the arm are also at risk. The pain can also occur as a result of minor injury. Oftentimes, it can occur without any cause.


Shoulder impingement
The shoulder pain typically results to localized tenderness and swelling in the front part of the shoulder.

The shoulder pain typically results to localized tenderness and swelling in the front part of the shoulder. The individual can experience pain and stiffness when the arm is lifted. There is also pain when the arm is lowered from an elevated position.

Remember that the initial symptoms of shoulder impingement are mild. At this phase, many do not seek treatment and includes the following:

  • Pain that radiates from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm
  • Minimal pain that is present both with activity and at rest
  • Abrupt pain during lifting and reaching movements
  • There is pain when throwing during overhead movements

Once the issue progresses, the symptoms worsen which involves night time pain, loss of motion and strength as well as difficulty in engaging in activities that places the arm behind the back. In case the pain occurs abruptly, the shoulder is severely tender in which all movement can be reduced and there is soreness.

Diagnosing shoulder impingement

The doctor will check the symptoms and medical history of the individual. The shoulder is checked for tenderness or deformity. The doctor will check the range of motion of the shoulder by asking the individual to move his/her arm in various directions. The imaging tests performed to determine if shoulder impingement is present includes an X-ray, MRI and an ultrasound.


The main objective in treating shoulder impingement is to minimize the pain and restore functionality. If you will register for first aid training, you can learn measures to help ease the pain. When planning the treatment, the doctor will take into consideration the age, overall health and activity level of the individual.

Non-surgical treatment

In most cases, the primary form of treatment for shoulder impingement will not involve surgery. Even though non-surgical treatment might take several weeks to months, many individuals experience gradual improvement and restoration of functionality.

  • The doctor will emphasize the importance of adequate rest and modification of activities such as avoidance of overhead movements.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen can be given to minimize the swelling and pain.
  • Physical therapy focuses on restoring the normal motion of the shoulder. The stretching exercise will improve the range of motion. Once the pain subsides, strengthening exercises will be started.
  • Steroid injections are given if rest, pain medications and physical therapy are not effective in relieving the pain. This involves an administration of a local anesthetic and a cortisone preparation. Take note that cortisone is an effective anti-inflammatory that is injected into the bursa under the acromion to relieve the pain.

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