Shoulder Impingement

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What Is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement results when the tendons or bursa in your shoulder become irritated from repeated overhead movements. Those repeated movements cause the bones in the shoulder to impinge on the tendons or bursa. Examples of these movements include a swimmer's stroke or a tennis serve. Shoulder impingement can make your shoulder feel weak and painful, even when you are not using it.

Shoulder Impingement Causes and Risk Factors

Overhead movement of your arm causes stress on the tendons in your shoulder and rotator cuff. Any time you repeatedly move your arm overhead you risk developing shoulder impingement. Anyone old enough to participate in sports that involve overhead movement can develop shoulder impingement.

Shoulder Impingement Complications

Shoulder impingement limits everyday movement in the shoulder. Repeated stress from the irritation can ultimately lead to a torn rotator cuff.

Shoulder Impingement Symptoms and Diagnosis

Shoulder Impingement Symptoms

Shoulder impingement causes symptoms such as pain and weakness in the shoulder area. It can happen suddenly, or the pain can come on gradually. Lifting your affected arm above your head causes pain, and everyday activities as simple as dressing yourself become difficult.

Shoulder Impingement Diagnosis

Consult a medical professional to diagnose shoulder impingement. They will examine your range of motion and determine the cause of your pain by observing how you can move your arm and shoulder.

In some cases, your diagnosis may include tests such as:

  • X-rays
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound
  • Arthrogram

Shoulder Impingement Treatment

Shoulder impingement is treated by:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
  • Warm compresses or warm water (a shower or a soak in a tub),
  • Physical therapy, including exercises for stretching and strengthening,
  • In some cases, injection of steroids into the affected area.

If caused by a sport, you will have to take some time off from that activity to fully recover. In some cases, surgery may be required to help repair the injury.