Shoulder Impingement - Overview

The shoulder has a lot of action-packed within it. Not only does it have the most excellent range of motion for a joint, but there's quite a bit going on even when everything is functioning normally with no issues to worry about. Shoulder impingement is one of the most common physical problems treated in clinics. While this problem can be easy to remedy, we can't stress enough how important it is to get treatment early rather than waiting until you're experiencing severe pain. In this article, we'll take you through everything there is to know about shoulder impingement and why it happens!

What is Shoulder Impingement?

There are two key regions in the shoulder girdle complex that sit very close: the acromion (articulating with the end of the collar bone) and the coracoid (a bony process on the shoulder blade itself). It's thought that these lean processes form a protective arch, or subacromial space, around the rotator cuff tendons together with surrounding ligaments and bursae (the body's built-in cushioning for limiting friction with shoulder use between bones, tendons, and ligaments). However, there is some discrepancy here as no studies have established a direct link between acromion morphology and rotator cuff tears.

Types of Shoulder Impingement

To properly diagnose shoulder impingement syndrome, you first have to pinpoint the areas that hurt. Symptoms of pain may overflow into multiple regions:

Internal shoulder impingement

When it comes down to causes, it is generally from repetitive movements, more specifically related to athletes who throw and play baseball. One can also be at risk of developing this disorder if they have undergone certain surgeries in the past or have atrophied muscles.

Primary shoulder impingement

Primary shoulder impingement is a structural problem in the shoulder, usually characterized by a lack of space beneath your acromion that causes friction and inflammation.

Secondary shoulder impingement

Secondary shoulder impingement is caused by poor kinematics (posture and movement) and lifestyle factors such as hunching, back muscles, rotator cuff weakness, or poor exercise technique.

Anterior shoulder impingement

Anterior shoulder impingement occurs when the head of your arm bone (humerus) is pulled anteriorly (to the front of your body) by overdeveloped pectorals, anterior deltoid, and bicep muscles. Unfortunately, this causes pinching and friction of the rotator cuff.

Common Causes

Shoulder impingement syndrome rarely occurs due to just one single incident or event. Instead, it is triggered by a combination of repetitive movements and lifestyle choices, such as overuse and others, which predominantly affect the rotator cuff. Some people who work in professions like swimming and golf may be more at risk of developing exercise-related shoulder impingement syndrome because they tend to do activities to strengthen the muscles associated with their deltoid; this leads to an imbalance between the deltoid muscle group and the rotator cuff muscle group. It's essential to consult a physician before beginning any strength training or rehabilitation exercises so you don't cause even more damage to your shoulders unintentionally!

The common causes are as follows:

Repetitive Activities

According to a study by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you are 41% more likely to suffer shoulder impingement if you engage in activities like baseball, swimming, tennis, or golfing. You may also be susceptible to shoulder impingement pain if you regularly perform repetitive overhead movements such as those that occur while lifting heavy objects, painting, or construction.

Structural Abnormalities

It's pretty normal to develop shoulder impingement syndrome. Structural abnormalities usually cause these kinds of syndromes in your shoulders, such as excess bone formations around the joint, congenital bone alignment disorders, which lead to slower development of muscles and tendons around this region, and ossification due to synovitis or inflammation in the joints, which result in a smaller space for your rotator cuff tendons (rotator cuffs) to rest.

Recovering from Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement recovery time varies from shoulder to shoulder and from case to case. Because every athlete is different, it's hard to predict how long procedures will take – anywhere between two to six months or even longer in some circumstances. The key is getting proper treatment along the way until the individual situation alleviates itself. A professional therapist who specializes in shoulder injuries can guide you through a recovery plan that considers your case and helps ensure you get back on track as soon as possible.

Treatment & Prevention

Better safe than sorry! Prevention is always the best route, mainly if genetics or daily activities predispose you to shoulder impingement syndrome. Olympic weightlifters, tennis players, swimmers, and other athletes should include rotator cuff exercises in their regular weekly fitness routines to keep knots in their shoulders at bay.

Posture is vital to reduce aches and pains, improve athletic performance and reduce the likelihood of sports-related injuries. And while you may not be able to maintain proper posture at all times (depending on your schedule), there are quick and easy ways to correct your posture through either home remedies like stretching or undergoing physical therapy with the help of kinesiology tape.

If you suffer from pain due to inflammation, it's important to remember that there are plenty of treatment options available to help you heal. Some people prefer heat therapy or herbal heating pads, and others may find that cold treatment works best for them. In some cases, massage therapy (and even something like a TENS unit) can also help with healing and soreness since the massaging effect helps to boost circulation.

The bottom line is to treat your shoulders nicely, and they will reward you with years of effortless use.


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