Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is a painful syndrome that occurs when the soft tissues of the shoulder press and rub against the outer edge of the shoulder blade (acromion). Irritation of the rotator cuff tendons and the subacromial bursa, a soft sac, is common.


People who participate in activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as swimmers, tennis players, and construction workers, are at increased risk for shoulder impingement. It can also happen after a shoulder injury or sometimes with no known cause.


Pain when extending the arms above the head, tenderness in the shoulder, and swelling are all common symptoms of shoulder impingement. Pain is sometimes sudden when reaching above the head. An aching pain is also noticeable at night, especially when lying on the affected side.


Physicians will ask about medical history and symptoms in order to diagnose shoulder impingement syndrome. A physical exam will also assess factors such as range of motion and pain when moving the arm. Imaging tests, including x-ray and MRI, can rule out other issues like arthritis, bone spurs, and tears in the rotator cuff tendons.


Shoulder impingement is usually treated effectively with pain medications, corticosteroid injections, and ice. Physical therapy may also be used to improve range of motion and strength. If conservative treatments do not improve pain, surgery may be an option.

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