Shoulder Impingement - Overview

Shoulder Impingement - Overview

The shoulder joint, renowned for its extensive range of motion, is one of the most versatile and complex joints in the human body. It allows for a vast array of movements, from lifting and rotating to throwing and reaching. Despite its capabilities, the shoulder's complex structure also makes it vulnerable to various issues, one of which is shoulder impingement syndrome. This condition is one of the most commonly treated ailments in orthopedic and physical therapy clinics.

Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the narrow passageway between the top of the arm bone and a part of the shoulder blade. Over time, this can lead to pain, weakness, and reduced mobility in the shoulder.

The condition typically develops due to repetitive shoulder activities, especially those that require movements above the head. Athletes who engage in sports like baseball, tennis, and swimming are particularly susceptible, but non-athletes can also develop impingement through everyday activities such as painting, lifting, or excessive overhead reaching.

Understanding the mechanics of shoulder impingement and recognizing the early signs are crucial for timely and effective treatment. 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 you need to know about shoulder impingement and why it happens!"

What is Shoulder Impingement?

The shoulder girdle complex contains two interconnected regions nearby: the acromion, which articulates with the end of the collar bone, and the coracoid, a bony process located on the shoulder blade. These slender structures are believed to form a protective arch, or subacromial space, around the rotator cuff tendons and the surrounding ligaments and bursae. 

These anatomical features are natural cushioning agents, limiting friction between bones, tendons, and ligaments during shoulder use. Despite this, whether acromion morphology plays a role in developing shoulder impairment has yet to be fully answered, as no studies have established a direct correlation between the two.

Shoulder impingement is caused by repeated overhead movements that result in shoulder irritation of the tendons or bursa. This irritation causes the bones in the shoulder to impinge on the tendons or bursa, leading to pain and weakness, even when the shoulder is not in use. Activities such as a swimmer's stroke or tennis serve can cause this condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is characterized by common symptoms, such as limited range of motion when reaching behind the back, discomfort when using the arm overhead, and diminished strength in the shoulder muscles.

Prolonged injury to tendons can lead to a rotator cuff tear, wherein the tendon tears apart. It results in notable weakness and may impede the person's ability to raise their arm.

In some cases, the person may also experience a rupture of the biceps muscle caused by the ongoing impingement process.

Common Causes

Shoulder impingement syndrome rarely occurs due to just one single incident or event. Instead, it is triggered by repetitive movements and lifestyle choices, such as overuse, 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.

Therefore, it's essential to consult a physician before beginning any strength training or rehabilitation exercises so you don't unintentionally cause even more damage to your shoulders!

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 constructing.

Structural Abnormalities

It's 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.

Types of Shoulder Impingement

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

Internal shoulder impingement

Regarding causes, they are generally from repetitive movements, more specifically related to athletes who throw and play baseball. However, one can also be at risk of developing this disorder if they have undergone certain surgeries 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.

Treatment for Shoulder Impingement

Treatment for shoulder impingement typically involves non-surgical measures, such as:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that cause pain can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs to the affected area can help to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve flexibility, which can help prevent future impingement episodes.

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 until the individual situation alleviates itself. A professional therapist specializing 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.

How Is Impingement Syndrome Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of impingement syndrome typically entails a comprehensive medical history and physical examination conducted by a qualified medical practitioner.

X-ray imaging may also eliminate the possibility of arthritis and identify any bone alterations that could suggest muscle damage. These changes may include the presence of bone spurs or irregular bone contours.

Treatment of Shoulder Impingement & 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. 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 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 plenty of treatment options are available to help you heal. For example, some people prefer heat therapy or herbal heating pads; 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.

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    SACKSY THYME Microwavable Pad for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome:

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

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