Shoulder Impingement – Its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

Man Shoulder hurtsA shoulder impingement occurs when soft tissues are “pinched” between the underside of the AC joint and the top of your humerus.   For those of you who are unfamiliar with these structures, the AC joint is made up of the outer portion of your collar bone and a hook of bone that comes off the top of your shoulder blade.

The top of your humerus (the upper bone that makes up your arm) is dome-shaped and is supported by muscles and ligaments under the AC joint and against the shoulder blade.  Impingement of the tendons and bursa that lie between these structures is a common cause of shoulder pain.

What Causes Shoulder Impingement?

Certain people are prone to developing an impingement in the shoulder.  Sometimes the AC joint is shaped in a way that makes this condition more likely to occur.  Other risk factors for shoulder impingement include repeated overhead activities such as tennis, swimming, painting, etc.  Weight lifting, in particular, poor form when doing lateral dumbbell flys and overhead presses are frequently associated with causing irritation and inflammation that leads to impingement.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

Impingements of the shoulder are very painful, in fact, they are considered more painful than a rotator cuff tear.  Aside from severe pain, typical symptoms of impingement syndrome include the following; pain when moving the shoulder through a specific range of motion, pain when reaching up and behind the back, shoulder pain with use of the arm overhead and weakness of the shoulder muscles.  Impingement syndromes of the shoulder can pinch the rotator cuff tendon that runs beneath the AC joint which can result in a rotator cuff tear.

Shoulder impingement treatment is multifaceted.  Treatment begins with avoidance of ANY movements that increase your pain. Inflammation is a primary cause of pain and needs to be treated with frequent daily application of ice packs in 20 to 30-minute sessions.  In my San Diego chiropractic office, we use chiropractic adjustments, electrical muscle stimulation, and ultrasound therapy to reduce inflammation and pain – these therapies will also help improve your range of motion.

Unfortunately, once you have a shoulder that is prone to impingement you are likely to have a re-occurrence.  So be careful!

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Author: Allison Yardley

Allison has 6 years in practice as a Chiropractor's Assistant and is a licensed Massage Therapist who writes for numerous blogs online. Feel free to comment or ask questions regarding any of Alley's blog posts.