The shoulder joint is the most mobile ball-and-socket joint in the human body. But this also comes at a disadvantage: the shoulder is prone to injuries and wear. With impingement syndrome, various factors lead to painful restriction of your rotator cuff tendon (specifically, the supraspinatus tendon) between the top of your upper arm and the top of your shoulder (acromion). It is especially common in people who do a lot of work reaching overhead. Putting on a coat or lying on the affected shoulder can cause pain. Excessive strain, tissue changes from wear and tear, calcification and inflammation can all cause shoulder impingement. All of these factors involve abnormal muscle tension – that is, an imbalance in your muscular and fascial system. The good thing is that there are things you can do yourself to restore the balance and make your pain a thing of the past.
The word impingement means to “collide” or “encroach upon”. As well as shoulder impingement, impingement of the hip can also occur. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that connect your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade socket. The rotator cuff stabilizes your shoulders and enables you to rotate your upper arm inward and outward. With shoulder impingement syndrome, the area below the top of your shoulder becomes narrow. A fluid-filled sac called the bursa subacromialis along with the supraspinatus tendon get caught between the top of the shoulder (acromion) and the top of your upper arm (humerus).
With impingement syndrome, your shoulder mobility becomes limited. You’ll especially notice this if you lift your arm at your side between 60° and 120°. At night, the pain might get worse if you sleep on the affected shoulder. The space below the top of your shoulder gets narrow, and that makes the simplest everyday movements agony:
You can do the Painful Arc Test to quickly work out whether you have shoulder impingement: stand up straight and let your arms hang down by your sides. Lift the arm of your affected shoulder up by your side, with your palms facing down. If you have impingement syndrome, you will feel pain at an angle of between 60° and 120°. This can provide an initial self-diagnosis.
In general, the discomfort you get with impingement syndrome appears over a long period of time and isn’t dangerous. But if you experience a sharp pain, significantly restricted movement, and/or sudden swelling and redness, we recommend a visit to your doctor. They’ll be able to diagnose your symptoms and start targeted treatment.
Impingement syndrome is often a sign of wear and tear. It mainly affects people who do a lot of work reaching overhead. Various sports can also make the problem more likely. The people who most commonly get shoulder impingement are:
Wondering what sports you can do with impingement syndrome? Try to avoid doing the sports above until the pain goes away.
There are a wide variety of anatomical causes of impingement syndrome. Bone loss, inflamed bursa and tendons, or congenital factors can make impingement syndrome more likely, as can small fragments of calcium deposits. In any case, it results in narrowing between the top of the upper arm (humerus) and the top of the shoulder (acromion). It’s often caused by excessive pulling on the lateral shoulder muscle (deltoid muscle) that can’t be compensated for by other, weakened shoulder muscles. The narrowing causes your supraspinatus tendon to get caught. Sometimes, the pressure also irritates and inflames the fluid-filled sac in that part of your body (bursa subacromialis), which causes pain.
Treatment for shoulder impingement depends very much on what specific form it takes. As a general rule, the earlier you start treatment, the more likely your symptoms will go away without surgery. When does an impingement require surgery? Usually, shoulder impingement surgery is unnecessary. Depending on the extent of the shoulder impingement syndrome, it may help if you can reduce the inflammation to start with. Then you can start the next part of the treatment. If you want to successfully treat impingement syndrome, you’ll need to incorporate the following into your everyday life:
Don’t let it get to that point – prevent shoulder impingement instead!
In order to prevent shoulder impingement syndrome, avoid the typical everyday movements where you reach above your head, and also avoid sleeping on the same shoulder with your arm stretched up under your head. Are you at more risk of shoulder impingement because of your job or the sports you do? Then prevent unpleasant shoulder pain with the following exercises.