9 Ways to Treat Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

9 Ways to Treat Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome, also known as subacromial impingement, is a common orthopedic condition that occurs when the rotator cuff tendons are compressed during shoulder movements. This compression happens in the subacromial space, the area between the top of the upper arm bone and a part of the shoulder blade known as the acromion.

As the arm is raised, the narrowing of this space causes the acromion to rub against or "impinge" on the tendons and the bursa (a lubricating sac), leading to irritation and inflammation. Over time, this repetitive trauma can result in significant pain, limited mobility, and, in severe cases, deterioration of the rotator cuff tendons.

How does shoulder impingement syndrome develop?

In cases where the rotator cuff is irritated or injured, it experiences swelling similar to that of a sprained ankle—however, the presence of bone surrounding the rotator cuff results in additional consequences.First, the swelling reduces the space around the rotator cuff, increasing friction against the acromion bone.

This exacerbates the swelling further, ultimately resulting in a vicious cycle. Additionally, bone spurs on the acromion bone can contribute to impingement as they further narrow the constricted space where the rotator cuff sits. 

Who’s at risk of having it?

Engaging in athletic activities that involve frequent overhead or forceful shoulder movements poses a significant risk of developing shoulder impingement. Such activities may include:

  • swimming
  • tennis
  • baseball

Occupations requiring heavy lifting or arm movement also increase your risk. These include:

  • construction work
  • moving boxes
  • painting.

Shoulder impingement is often associated with old age or previous shoulder injuries, particularly dislocations. Furthermore, individuals with an atypical acromion shape may be at an increased risk.

Causes of Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Repetitive overhead activities: Activities that involve raising your arms overhead, such as swimming, tennis, or volleyball, can overuse the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, making them more susceptible to impingement.
  • Age-related changes: As we age, the tissues in our shoulders become less flexible and more prone to inflammation, increasing the risk of shoulder impingement.
  • Abnormal bone structure: Some people are born with a naturally narrow shoulder joint, which can increase the risk of impingement.
  • Injury: A direct injury to the shoulder, such as a fall or a blow to the shoulder, can damage the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, making them more likely to become impinged.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

The main symptom of shoulder impingement is pain in the shoulder, which is often worse when you raise your arm overhead. Other symptoms may include:

  • Weakness and loss of range of motion in the shoulder
  • Clicking or popping sounds in the shoulder
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand

How common is shoulder impingement?

 Shoulder impingement syndrome is widely recognized as a significant factor in 44% to 65% of all reported cases of shoulder pain.

Ways to Treat Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder pain is a common issue that can significantly impact how things get done. This is particularly true for those who are very active people and athletes. To address the problems that cause impingement syndrome, you, as a patient, must first understand what it is and how it affects your overall health. 

The more you know these things, the better chances you'll have at ensuring recovery and expediting the process of treating your problem. If you're searching for an effective treatment method, take some time to read through the top ways to treat your shoulder pain effectively.

1. Hot and Cold Therapy

Things like herbal heating pads and cold therapy packs are a go-to addition to any injury treatment, especially shoulder tendonitis. More specific relief can be obtained for the shoulder with heat packs or even compression cold packs to conform precisely to the arm.

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    If your shoulder pain is relatively new, stick with ice for 24 - 48 hours. After that, try alternating between heat and cold to optimize blood flow and pain relief.

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      2. Rest

      Shoulder impingement syndrome can cause you a lot of pain if it goes unchecked, often taking a long time to go away. Giving your shoulder extra care is vital to prevent inflammation from worsening. The easiest thing you can do is rest more and avoid overworking that shoulder until the issue has healed adequately so as not to inflame it and worsen any pre-existing injury continually.

      Although this may prove difficult for many people, sleeping on an incline pillow will allow your entire body to relax. In addition, your shoulders will receive extra care without additional effort when under pressure from work or trying to get an early morning workout before work.

      The best way to prevent accidental use is by using a shoulder brace. You can easily find the one that will suit your needs. Use it to protect your injury while easing its pain so you can move around easily.

      You should know how long you have to rest it and what exercises help you regain movement so you can continue living your daily life without feeling pain every time you move, especially if you're doing something simple like tying your shoes or opening a door!

      3. Lavender oil aromatherapy

      Lavender oil is known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a potential remedy for shoulder pain. To utilize its benefits, it is recommended to add a few drops of lavender oil to your bathtub and soak in the lavender-infused water for approximately 30 minutes, or you can also use a Sacksythyme hot therapy relief lavender heating pad.

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      The Sacksy Thyme Microwavable Heating Pad is a versatile solution for various types of pain, such as shoulder impingement, muscle soreness, and backaches. Its innovative design and high-quality materials provide fast and effective relief in a convenient and safe manner. This heating pad can be used on different body parts, including the shoulders, neck, back, and abdomen, making it a versatile option for addressing pain and discomfort.


      This herb oil not only provides relief from shoulder pain but also has the potential to relax your mind and alleviate neck and back pain.

      4. Physical Therapy

      As a trained expert in musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, including shoulder impingement, shoulder instability, and rotator cuff tears, the physical therapist is well-versed in evaluating your symptoms to discover the cause of your pain.

      Before starting any physical therapy program or treatment plan for shoulder impingement or related conditions like shoulder bursitis or tendonitis, book an appointment with a physical therapist who can evaluate how these symptoms impact you daily.

      Through a thorough evaluation of your shoulder range of motion, flexibility, strength, coordination, and posture, you can acquire the knowledge necessary to create a muscle-strengthening, stretching, and endurance routine that will help get you back to your average movement level in no time!

      5. Stretches and Exercises

      For a productive recovery, one must include appropriate exercises and stretches in their treatment protocol after one suffers from shoulder impingement. While stretching should address a limited range of motion at the shoulder, neck, and upper back, strengthening exercises should concentrate on the rotator cuff muscles, shoulder blades, and upper back. A great tool to use for shoulder strengthening is a resistance band.

      6. Massage

      Muscles are meant to be used. Whether from playing sports or just a rigorous day at the office, your muscles can get sore, and that's normal! Soft tissue massage is a great way to relax those muscles so they don't stress or strain as much.

      You can even perform soothing tissue massage on yourself with professional tools like our Massage Cane and Lacrosse Ball Set - everyone has options, no matter your budget! Otherwise, if you need extra assistance getting things back in place, try going for a massage or physical therapy session.

      7. Surgery

      If a patient's condition becomes chronic and there is pain, weakness, and loss of function, they will most likely go in for a form of surgery. Surgery What is it? If conservative treatment has failed, the rotator cuff has a significant tear. High-force trauma caused the injury and is associated with other shoulder injuries (such as sports).

      Typically, surgery will be recommended to repair the tear if a tendon in the rotator cuff is more than 50% torn and the muscles have lost significant strength and function.

      The goal is to get the rotator cuff muscle tendons back to their average level of strength and health. Surgery can successfully save these tendons if they have been affected by an injury that causes significant progressive tearing in the muscle tendons or joints (such as what happens in sports).

      Other issues can also be fixed via surgery. These include extra bone growth, tendon fibrosis, and other degenerative problems that aggravate the area in question, thus causing chronic inflammation and pain. Most surgeons will opt for minimally invasive surgery to not damage the surrounding tissues. 

      It depends on how extensive the operation was as far as recovery goes. Generally, patients may face anywhere from 12 – 24 weeks before returning to complete normalcy in their activities, but everyone heals differently, and doctors may be more thorough than others with their restrictions.

      The best way to determine if surgery is right for you is by consulting a specialist who will provide you with a proper diagnosis and determine just how risky it would be to go through that procedure.

      8. Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to manage pain shouldn't be considered a long-term option. Drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and Aleve favor over-the-counter options for managing inflammation and swelling in the shoulder. 

      Side effects can vary from headache to kidney damage in the long term if you don't realize when enough is enough. If the pain seems to become debilitating with no improvement after two weeks, consider talking to your doctor about stronger medications or surgical options if physical therapy offers no relief.

      9. Cortisone Injection

      Shoulder pain is joint, especially for people who have physical jobs. Shoulder injection of cortisone works to control this kind of pain by taking some time to heal the area and produce needed space for the bones around your shoulder joints so they can move more quickly.

      Cortisone has been proven to reduce any joint stiffness or inflammation you might feel from over-use, but it is not meant to be used as a long-term solution. Literature reports that you can receive up to four cortisone shots annually without serious side effects.

      However, there is no solid evidence that cortisone injections cause further problems if the actual underlying cause of an issue is not fully addressed. It's also believed that they help relieve much of the pain associated with these issues and maintain one's quality of life long-term.

      Finding a Safe and Effective Shoulder Impingement Treatment

      Try to identify the treatment that works best for you. The goal is not to get rid of your pain or inflammation but to control it and manage it in a way that will not hamper your daily lifestyle or interfere with your ability to perform activities. If trying some methods does not work for you, then ask for professional help from specialists who can assist you in identifying the proper treatment for your condition. 

      Some may suggest getting an X-ray or an MRI scan as they may need more information about your shoulder. For example, they may be wondering if there are any inflammatory growths like osteophytes, if you have any rotator cuff tears, or if you have bursitis-related issues.

      • A feeling of heaviness in the arms
      • The onset of tingling or numbness in the arms and hands
      • Severe pain in the shoulders and neck
      • Loss of strength in the upper body
      • Significant changes in your balance

      When you're in pain, it's often best to be treated as early as possible so you can return to your everyday life again. There's a reason why people always say that procrastination leads to more severe problems in the long run - something like shoulder pain, for example. With good treatment options and lots of rest and recovery time, one can typically see relief within a few days or weeks. 

      However, it may take up to 6 months of restful living before symptoms are no longer visible. When recovering from an injury, the most crucial factor is your chosen treatment methods and how well you follow them!

      Those who do everything to schedule physical appointments will find that they'll feel better much faster than those who treat their ailments on their own.

      Still, Experiencing Shoulder Pain? 

      Home-based treatment options can be highly effective for acute and mild shoulder pain. Nevertheless, patients experiencing severe or chronic shoulder pain are advised to seek the advice of an orthopedic specialist to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying cause of their discomfort and the potential courses of professional treatment available to them.

      Prevention of Shoulder Impingement

      There are a number of things you can do to help prevent shoulder impingement, including:

      • Warm up before exercise: Warming up before performing activities that involve overhead movements can help prevent muscle strains and injuries.
      • Stretch regularly: Stretching the muscles and tendons in your shoulders can help to improve flexibility and range of motion, reducing the risk of impingement.
      • Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles: Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles can help support the shoulder joint and reduce the risk of impingement.
      • Avoid overhead activities if they cause pain: If you experience pain when performing overhead activities, stop the activity and rest.
      • Maintain good posture: Good posture can help reduce shoulder joint stress, lowering the risk of impingement.

      Final Word

      The evaluation of shoulder pain requires a careful, case-by-case analysis. If the pain results from excessive throwing or lifting and subsides with rest, it is unlikely to indicate a significant injury.

      On the other hand, if the pain is accompanied by weakness or instability, it typically suggests the need for further investigation. If your shoulder has dislocated or a significant injury has occurred, visiting a doctor is strongly advised.

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