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Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

One of the most common physical complaints is shoulder pain. Your shoulder is made up of several joints combined with tendons and muscles that allow a great range of motion in your arm. Because so many different structures make up the shoulder, it is vulnerable to many different problems. The rotator cuff is a frequent source of pain in the shoulder.

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain. It occurs when there is impingement of tendons or bursa in the shoulder from bones of the shoulder.  Overhead activity of the shoulder, especially repeated activity, is a risk factor for shoulder impingement syndrome. Examples include: painting, lifting, swimming, tennis, and other overhead sports. Other risk factors include bone and joint abnormalities.

With impingement syndrome, pain is persistent and affects everyday activities. Over time, impingement syndrome can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (tendinitis) and bursa (bursitis). If not treated appropriately, the rotator cuff tendons can start to thin and tear.


  • Difficulty reaching up behind the back
  • Pain with overhead use of the arm especially for athletes participating in overhead sports like volleyball, tennis and baseball.
  • Loss of strength and motion in the shoulder muscles
  • Pain at night
  • Pain radiating from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm


How Is Impingement Syndrome Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of impingement syndrome begins with a medical history and physical exam by your doctor. X-rays will be taken to rule out arthritis and may show changes in the bone that indicate injury of the muscle.

How Is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Treated?

  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications — such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen, remain the most common treatment for impingement syndrome.
  • Rest- Your doctor may suggest rest and activity modification, such as avoiding overhead activities.
  • Physical Therapy may be ordered to strengthen and stretch the shoulder muscles.
  • Avoid repetitive activities with your injured arm
  • If rest, medications, and physical therapy do not relieve your pain, an injection of Cortisone is a very effective anti-inflammatory medicine. Injecting it into the bursa beneath the acromion can relieve pain.

The vast majority of people who have impingement syndrome are successfully treated with medication, stretching exercises, and temporary avoidance of repetitive overhead activity until the condition settles down.

When nonsurgical treatment does not relieve pain, your doctor may recommend surgery.  Surgical Procedures recommended for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome are anterior acromioplasty and sub-acromial decompression.  It is important to speak with your Orthopaedic Care Physician to see what the best treatment option is for you.