Because the shoulder is so integral to arm movements, it’s not uncommon for people to experience shoulder injuries at some point in their life. In fact, one study found that shoulder pain is the third most common complaint orthopedists see.
And shoulder impingement is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain.
Your shoulder is made up of tendons, muscles, joints, and bones. Keeping these parts together is the rotator cuff, which is composed of muscles and tendons that cover the head of your upper arm and keep it attached to your shoulder blade.
Because all these parts fit together so snugly, frequent movement can cause irritation, which can lead to shoulder impingement.
Causes and symptoms of shoulder impingement
The top part of your shoulder is called the acromion. It’s a small narrow space and can put pressure and friction on the other parts when there is frequent movement.
This friction can lead to inflammation and bone spurs. The inflammation further irritates your shoulder, making shoulder impingement challenging to treat, because it’s difficult to immobilize your shoulder to let the inflammation subside completely.
The most common symptom of shoulder impingement is pain when you reach overhead. The pain may even be present without movement. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of strength
- Limited shoulder mobility
- Difficulty putting on clothes
Shoulder impingement syndrome is common among athletes who perform repeated overhead motions. It’s also called swimmer’s shoulder because it’s common among people who swim.
People who play tennis, volleyball, or baseball (pitchers) are also susceptible, as are people who have jobs where repetitive overhead motions are common. These jobs include grocery shelf stockers and painters.
Shoulder impingement treatment options
Most shoulder impingement issues ease with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and immobilization of your shoulder. If conservative remedies don’t help relieve the pain and discomfort, we may recommend a steroid injection to reduce inflammation.
Once the pain is reduced and the inflammation has gone down, we often recommend physical therapy exercises to help create more space in the acromion and prevent the impingement from returning. If noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments fail to eliminate the pain and mobility issues after several months, surgery may be your next option.
During surgery, we use arthroscopic and endoscopic techniques to decompress the subacromial space to create more space for the tendons to move freely. With more space, the tendons don’t rub against and irritate the acromion.
After surgery, you wear a sling while your shoulder heals. Once it’s healed, physical therapy exercises can help you regain your strength and mobility.
Are you experiencing shoulder pain? Call our Castro Valley office to make an appointment for a diagnosis and treatment plan.