What is shoulder impingement syndrome?
Shoulder impingement syndrome is a painful or uncomfortable condition caused by repeated compression or movement of your rotator cuff tendons. The areas affected could be the long head of your biceps tendon, your bursa or the ligaments in your shoulder.
An injury to the shoulder could also cause shoulder impingement syndrome – for example, athletes like weightlifters or volleyball players, as well as manual labourers, or anyone else who lifts their arm over their head repeatedly is more likely to get shoulder impingement syndrome. One other common cause of shoulder impingement syndrome is bad posture.
Thankfully, if you have shoulder impingement syndrome, a physical therapist can help you improve your strength and range of movement through hands-on care, education and specifically prescribed postural correction and rotator cuff exercises, as well as Pilates.
What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?
We mentioned earlier how shoulder impingement syndrome can cause pain and discomfort of varying levels. Other symptoms of shoulder impingement include restricted shoulder movement with weakness when you reach your arm out to the side, behind your body, or above your head. Shoulder impingement syndrome can also cause pain when you attempt any of these motions, as well as being uncomfortable or experiencing pain when you try to sleep on the affected side of your body. On top of this, dynamic motions like throwing a ball could also result in pain when you have shoulder nerve impingement.
Shoulder impingement treatment and diagnosis
If you suspect you have shoulder impingement syndrome, a physical therapist can do a lot to help! When you visit, your physical therapist will evaluate how you are doing. They will also ask questions about the pain you are feeling and will check if you have other symptoms. Your physical therapist will also carry out motion and strength tests on your shoulder, as well as getting to know more about your job and what you do for fun. Your physical therapist should also take a look at your posture and look for muscle weaknesses or imbalances that can occur between your scapular and shoulder muscles.
Your physiotherapist may do gentle movements of your shoulder and arm to figure out precisely which tendons are involved in your discomfort. If necessary, your physiotherapist may also take x-rays to check for conditions like arthritis, bony spurs, or other physical abnormalities. Your physiotherapist can then help you with pain management and physiotherapy.
What are some good exercises for shoulder impingement syndrome?
If you have been diagnosed with shoulder impingement syndrome, your physical therapist may recommend various exercises to help you manage the condition. Here are some exercises that are commonly used to treat shoulder impingement syndrome:
- Pendulum stretch: Stand with one hand resting on a table or chair, and let the other hand hang down. Swing the hanging arm back and forth gently, then side to side, in a circular motion. This exercise is great for increasing your range of motion.
- Shoulder blade squeeze: Sit up straight in a chair with your arms at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat this exercise several times a day to help improve your posture and reduce pain.
- External rotation: Lie on your side with your affected arm on the top. Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and keep it close to your body. Slowly rotate your arm outward, away from your body. Repeat this exercise several times a day to help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.
- Internal rotation: Lie on your side with your affected arm on the bottom. Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and keep it close to your body. Slowly rotate your arm inward, towards your body. Repeat this exercise several times a day to help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.
- Wall push-up: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly lower your body towards the wall, keeping your elbows close to your body. Push back up to the starting position. Repeat this exercise several times a day to help strengthen your shoulder muscles. Note that some of the above exercises are just basic ones to get you started, the key is starting with the right combination of exercises according to your particular presentation, and learning to progress them as you get stronger and more range of movement
Remember to always consult with your physical therapist before starting any exercise regimen. They will provide you with a customised plan that is tailored to your specific condition and needs.
If you’re worried about shoulder impingement syndrome, you should see a physical therapist as soon as possible. Your physical therapist will perform a thorough evaluation and diagnosis to determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition. They may recommend exercises to help manage your symptoms, as well as hands-on care and education to improve your strength and range of motion. With the right treatment plan, you can manage your shoulder impingement syndrome and get back to your daily activities with less pain and discomfort.