One of the most common shoulder injuries is an impingement, commonly referred to as swimmer’s shoulder or tennis shoulder. Impingement stems from inflammationof the tendons (connective tissue) in your shoulder joint and also may be labeled tendonitis.
What causes shoulder impingement?
An impingement is essentially pressure. Shoulder impingement usually happens when the shoulder blade (also known as the “scapula”) puts undue pressure on the rotator cuff and causes inflammation in the bursa sac, which serves as a cushion for the rotator cuff. This condition is referred to as “bursitis.” The impingement may be caused by repetitive stress or overuse, or it may stem from a partial tear somewhere in the rotator cuff.
Symptoms of shoulder impingement
You’ll most likely experience shoulder impingement as sharp and/or severe pain in the shoulder joint, weakness in your arms, and stiffness or loss of range of motion when you try to raise your hands over your head. Expect your doctor to conduct a physical examination that puts you through a series of exercises to determine your range of motion. X-rays and MRIs also may be a part of the diagnostic process.
Treatment options for shoulder impingement
If the impingement is relatively mild, you’ll probably get some relief from rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Steroid injections also can minimize your discomfort. To prevent shoulder impingement from becoming a persistent problem, you’ll want to participate in some type of physical therapy, so you can strengthen muscles and increase your flexibility and range of motion. If your impingement is caused by a rotator cuff tear, arthroscopic surgery can be a minimally-invasive way to permanently address the problem.