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What Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

Shoulder impingement occurs as the result of repetitive compression or “impingement” of the rotator-cuff tendons in the shoulder. This impingement on the tendons causes pain and movement problems in the shoulder. If left untreated, shoulder impingement can lead to a more serious condition such as a rotator cuff tear.

doctor examining patient

Shoulder Impingement Causes and Risk Factors

Impingement is one of the most common causes of pain in the adult shoulder. It is more likely to occur in young and middle-aged people who engage in physical activities that require repeated overhead movements. Naturally, there is a gap between the anterior edge of the acromion and the head of the humurs, known as subacromial space. When the arm is raised this space narrows and the supraspinatus muscle tendon passes through the gap. When this gap becomes too narrow it may impinge then tendon causing it to become inflamed and painful. So what causes this gap to become too narrow?

  • Sports injuries: Athletes who participate in repetitive overhead movements such as baseball pitchers, weightlifters, golfers and swimmers are more susceptible to this shoulder injury.
  • Bony abnormalities of the acromion that narrow the subacromial space.
  • Osteoarthritis of the shoulder.
  • Weak rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscle strength, causing the humeral head to move abnormally.
  • Thickening of the bursa and/or ligaments in the shoulder.
  • Tightness of the soft tissue around the shoulder joint called the joint capsule.
  • An injured rotator cuff can sometimes cause the humerus to move and impinge the tendon.
  • Poor posture can also contribute to shoulder impingement development.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

  • Pain when participating in sports that involve throwing and dynamic movement patterns
  • Loss in shoulder motion
  • A feeling of weakness in the shoulder when reaching overhead
  • Pain in the shoulder when moving the arm overhead, out to the side, and beside the body.
  • Difficulty when trying to sleep on the involved side.

Also Referred to As

  • Swimmer’s Shoulder
  • Thrower’s Shoulder
  • Tennis Shoulder
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Subacromial Impingement
  • Painful Arc Syndrome
  • Supraspinatus Syndrome

When Surgery Is Necessary

When experiencing chronic shoulder pain, or have just sustained a shoulder-related injury, you should contact Dr. Madsen for a diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis of a shoulder impingement can help speed up recovery time and prevent the impingement from turning into a rotator cuff tear, so you can get back to doing what you love.

To diagnose a shoulder impingement, Dr. Madsen may perform a minimally invasive technique known as arthroscopy.

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