Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement, also known as subacromial impingement, is a common condition that occurs when the tendons or bursa (fluid-filled sacs) in the shoulder become compressed or pinched between the bones of the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is a complex structure that consists of the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). It also includes several muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help stabilize and move the shoulder.

Shoulder impingement typically involves the tendons of the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and their associated tendons that help with the rotation and movement of the shoulder. The rotator cuff tendons pass through a narrow space beneath the acromion, a bony projection of the scapula, and the coracoacromial ligament. When this space narrows or becomes compromised, it can lead to compression and irritation of the tendons and bursa, causing pain and inflammation. This condition is often associated with repetitive overhead arm movements, such as those performed in sports like swimming, tennis, or baseball, or in activities like painting or carpentry.

Symptoms of shoulder impingement may include:

  • Shoulder pain, typically felt on the outer side of the shoulder.
  • Pain that worsens when raising the arm, especially overhead.
  • Weakness in the shoulder.
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder.
  • Pain that may radiate down the arm.

Treatment for shoulder impingement may include:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain can help reduce inflammation and allow the shoulder to heal.
  • Physical Therapy: Our shoulder specialised physical therapist can teach you exercises and stretches to improve your shoulder strength and flexibility, as well as correct any underlying biomechanical issues.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Ice and Heat: Applying ice to the shoulder can help reduce inflammation, while heat can help relax tight muscles.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In very rare and recalcitrant cases, we might recommend corticosteroid injections into your shoulder joint to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Adjusting your activities and adopting proper posture and ergonomics can prevent further irritation of the shoulder.
  • Surgical Intervention: If conservative treatments are ineffective, or if there is a large bone spur, then a keyhole (Arthroscopic) surgery might be considered to create more space in the subacromial area, repair damaged tendons, or remove bone spurs.

It's important to consult us or another healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if you suspect you have shoulder impingement, as this condition can worsen if left untreated. Early intervention and appropriate rehabilitation can help alleviate pain and restore function to the shoulder.

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