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Understanding Shoulder Impingement: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Updated: Feb 25

Shoulder pain that just won't quit? You may be dealing with a condition called shoulder impingement. Here’s what you need to know about this common shoulder issue. 

What is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement occurs when there is irritation in the rotator cuff tendons or inflammation in the bursa sac in the shoulder joint. This typically happens when the tendons rub or get squeezed against the bone during overhead arm motions. 

What Causes Shoulder Impingement?

Common culprits of shoulder impingement include:

  • Repeated overhead motions in sports like tennis, swimming, or throwing 

  • Poor shoulder posture

  • Muscle imbalances and weaknesses

  • Anatomical abnormalities like bone spurs or curved shoulder anatomy

  • Previous shoulder injury or trauma 

All of these factors can contribute to impingement of the rotator cuff tendons, causing persistent shoulder pain.

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?

Those suffering from shoulder impingement typically experience:

  • Pain lifting or lowering the arms overhead: You may notice soreness kicking in every time you reach to grab something from a high shelf, sporting activities that raise your arm over shoulder level, or even brushing/styling your hair.

  • Stiffness, limited range of motion: Your shoulder flexibility suffers, making it really difficult just to reach up and put your coat/jacket on. Simple tasks require greater effort.

  • A dull ache that comes and goes: The shoulder region often feels fatigued, even after resting it. The tissues seem to stay chronically irritated, producing an annoying persistent soreness.

  • Difficulty reaching overhead or behind the back without sharp pain: Any movements like grabbing your seat belt, doing upside-down yoga poses, or following through on tennis serve to elicit stabbing shoulder discomfort.

  • Weak, unstable shoulder: You may notice your shoulder joint and rotator cuff muscles fatigue faster. It's tough to hold heavy items for long without increased tremors or wobbling.

  • Crackling or popping in the joint: Sudden movements make your shoulder emit crunching/grinding noises indicative of impinged inflamed tendons tracking through the joint improperly. If these symptoms sound familiar, don’t ignore your shoulder pain. Seek treatment from a physical therapy specialist.

How Motus Physical Therapy Treats Shoulder Impingement

At Motus Physical Therapy and Wellness, our licensed physical therapists provide customized treatment plans for shoulder impingement patients. Initial treatments focus on alleviating pain and inflammation through modalities, joint mobilizations, and medication. 

As symptoms improve, a tailored shoulder strengthening and range of motion program is implemented. Your PT will correct identified muscle imbalances, improve flexibility, and train proper shoulder mechanics to stop impingement. They'll design individualized exercises to reinforce recovery between therapy visits. Our goal is to resolve the root causes of your shoulder impingement so you can get back overhead pain-free.

Contact Motus Physical Therapy and Wellness today to schedule a shoulder evaluation. Our experienced team can provide the right treatment plan to help you regain pain-free motion again.

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