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  • Writer's pictureDavid Wilderman

Shoulder Pain- Do I Have an Impingement?

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder Impingement occurs as a result of chronic and repetitive compression of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder, causing pain and mobility issues. Individuals who perform repetitive or overhead arm movements, such as manual laborers (e.g., painters, drywall installers) or athletes who raise their arms repeatedly overhead (e.g., swimmers, tennis players, baseball pitchers) are most at risk for developing a Shoulder Impingement.

What are the Primary Causes of a Shoulder Impingement?

  • Repetitive overhead motions, such as swimming, tennis, as well as frequent overhead reaching or lifting

  • Trauma, such as a fall on the shoulder, where the shoulder gets compressed

  • Arthritic changes in the shoulder, which can lead to bone spurs and decreased space that the rotator cuff tendons pass through

  • Weakness in the rotator cuff or shoulder blade muscles

  • Thickening of ligaments or bursae in the region

  • Tightness in the capsule around the shoulder joint

How do I Know if I Have a Shoulder Impingement?

Individuals with Shoulder Impingement may experience any/all of the following:

  • Pain in the shoulder when moving the arm overhead or out to the side

  • Pain in the shoulder with throwing motions

  • Pain in the shoulder when attempting to sleep on the involved side

  • Limited shoulder motion, along with associated weakness when reaching overhead or out to the side

How Can Physical Therapy Help if I Have a Shoulder Impingement?

It is extremely important to get proper treatment for Shoulder Impingement ASAP. Ignoring the symptoms may lead to chronic rotator cuff tendonitis and ultimately rotator cuff tears. Treatment will most likely include:

  • Manual Therapy, such as soft tissue massage, gentle joint movements, and stretching to get your shoulder moving properly

  • Range of Motion Exercises to help your shoulder and shoulder blade move properly to allow for pain free lifting and reaching

  • Strengthening exercises specifically for the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles to allow for proper positioning of the “ball” in the ball and socket

  • Functional Training–As your symptoms improve, you will be instructed in patient-specific strategies to allow for a pain free return to work, sports, or at home

  • Patient Education to learn about specific causes of Shoulder Impingement, including postural awareness, as well as making the necessary adjustments for your work station, work habits, or home tasks

Can a Shoulder Impingement be Prevented?

Here are some suggestions to help minimize the onset of Shoulder Impingement:

  • Regular flexibility exercises for the shoulders, neck, and mid-back regions

  • Maintain proper strength of the shoulders and shoulder blade muscles

  • Awareness of proper posture and shoulder alignment when performing reaching or throwing motions, as well as avoiding a forward head/rounded shoulders posture when sitting for extended periods of time at a desk or computer

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms commonly associated with Shoulder Impingement, don’t wait to take action. Call my office at once at (302)691-9055, or visit my website at to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help you. Don’t delay–schedule now.

Photo by SnapWire

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