Accessibility Tools

What Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common condition that often develops along with shoulder bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis in active adults. The group of muscles and tendons that comprise the rotator cuff are surrounded by bony tissue, sandwiched in between the upper arm bone and the tip of the shoulder blade (acromion). For this reason, there is minimal space available to accommodate swelling. As a result, an inflamed shoulder tendon can become trapped and compressed, resulting in a reduction in blood flow that can cause the pressured tendon tissue to begin to fray.

What causes shoulder impingement syndrome?

Impingement syndrome frequently affects individuals who engage in physical activities that involve repeated overhead arm movements, such as golf, tennis, swimming, weightlifting and throwing a ball. Additionally, job duties that involve lifting the arms up to or above shoulder height can increase the risk of rotator cuff impingement.

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome?

In addition to localized tenderness and stiffness, shoulder impingement syndrome can cause:

  • Pain that extends from the top of the shoulder to the elbow
  • Pain that worsens with certain arm movements, such as reaching overhead or toward the back
  • Pain that disrupts sleep
  • Weakness in the shoulder muscles
  • Reduced range of motion in the shoulder

How is shoulder impingement syndrome treated?

When left untreated, shoulder impingement syndrome can potentially progress to a full rotator cuff tear, so prompt medical attention is important. Shoulder tendon pain usually responds well to conservative treatment, which often consists of simple home remedies such as ice pack applications and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A brief period of rest may also be helpful, followed by a gradual return to activity. A physical therapist can recommend an appropriate rehabilitation program that can be safely performed at home. Any movements that worsen the pain, such as reaching overhead, should be avoided until they can be comfortably performed.

If further pain relief is needed, a physician may prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory medication or a cortisone injection. The physician may also order an MRI to confirm or rule out a rotator cuff tear, which may require surgical repair.

The shoulder specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, offer both conservative and surgical treatment options for shoulder impingement syndrome. At one of our offices in the Houston, Texas, area, you can consult with an orthopedic expert who can help you determine the best approach for treating your shoulder pain. To schedule an appointment, contact us today.