Shoulder impingement

estuary fact sheets




Shoulder impingement

Your Injury

Shoulder impingement is a painful shoulder condition involving impingement of certain shoulder tendons.

Anatomy of the shoulder in study room

Shoulder impingement occurs when one of the rotator cuff tendons which attach the shoulder muscles to the top of the arm becomes trapped in the subacromial space and catches on the bone with movement. This causes inflammation of the shoulder, which results in pain.

Impingement can occur quickly after a shoulder injury, or it can develop gradually without any particular cause.

Possible explanations for shoulder impingement include:

-Presence of bone spurs under the acromion.
-Inflammation of the bursa between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion.
-Thickening of the rotator cuff tendons due to specific injury or general overuse.
-Calcium deposit build up within the rotator cuff tendons.

Signs & Symptoms

May include:

  • Persistent pain in the shoulder.
  • Pain upon moving the arm to shoulder height or above.
  • Loss of strength in the shoulder.

Conventional Treatment

May include:

  • Rest the affected limb until inflammation has subsided and movement is manageable.
  • Ice the area of inflammation with a covered icepack for 20 minutes at a time to ease inflammation.
  • Modify activities that aggravate symptoms further (e.g. lifting / reaching overhead).
  • Oral pain relief is often recommended by GPs, such as paracetamol (with or without codeine), or a non steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen.
  • Physical or manual therapy such as osteopathy to optimise shoulder joint function and stabilise surrounding muscles through targeted exercises.
  • Corticosterioid injections  may be offered if other pain relief options, and physiotherapy, have not shown improvement in symptoms.
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