Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder Impingement can lead to bursitis and tearing of the tendons.

In all movements of the shoulder, particularly those above shoulder height, the biggest muscle on the side of the shoulder (the deltoid muscle) contracts to raise the arm, and in doing so, forces the ball of the shoulder joint upwards into the socket.

The rotator cuff muscles are designed to counteract this action, by preventing the upwards movement of the ball in the socket.

What causes Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder Impingement occurs when there is an imbalance of the opposing forces of the upwards pull of the deltoid and the downwards pull of the rotator cuff, resulting the small space between the ball and the top of the shoulder socket being narrowed.

This causes pain, swelling and bruising of the rotator cuff tendons. This can lead to bursitis and tearing of the tendons, and maybe caused by:

  • Wear and tear of the bones resulting in bone spurs
  • Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (i.e. tendonitis), due to overuse or overload.
  • Excessive upward movement of the humerus, due to muscle imbalance between the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles.

What can you do to treat it?

Your Leading Edge physiotherapist will assess the function of your shoulder thoroughly, determining if there is any imbalance in the muscles supporting the shoulder.

Treatment can include ice application, anti-inflammatory medication and most importantly, specific exercises to regain strength and coordination of the rotator cuff muscle activity.

How can I prevent Shoulder Impingement?

If you have rotator cuff impingement, you need to avoid the following activities:
  • Using the arm in overhead positions
  • Heavy lifting or repetitive arm movement such as painting or washing your car
  • Sleeping on the affected arm
  • Hanging your arm down for prolonged periods.

My shoulder hurts, what should I do right now?

To help your injury resolve as fast as possible:
  • Avoid or modify activities and positions, which cause your pain. Recovery is easier if you stop irritating the shoulder.
  • Rest your arm on a pillow when sitting for prolonged periods
  • Use ice packs for 15 – 20 minutes regularly
  • Hug a pillow or rest your arm on a pillow during the night.
Your next step is to have your shoulder impingement assessed by a Leading Edge Physiotherapist. Contact us or book online today.