What is shoulder impingement?
Shoulder pain is a common occurrence and can have a large impact on daily activities. The shoulder is one of the most complex joints, consisting of the scapula (shoulder blade), glenohumeral joint, and clavicle (collar bone). One of the most common shoulder diagnoses we see is shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement is the pinching of a tendon, most commonly the supraspinatus tendon and sometimes the infraspinatus tendon, due to faulty mechanics of the shoulder. Shoulder impingement can occur due to repetitive motions, muscular imbalances and poor posture, and/or injury to the shoulder joint that creates inflammation. Some individuals are at a higher risk of developing shoulder impingement due to the shape of the end of their clavicle or if they have bursitis (inflammation of the bursa that sits under the end of the clavicle). Impingement symptoms commonly occur with reaching overhead or throwing, and pain can occur in the top (superior) or back (posterior) of the shoulder.
As previously mentioned, the reason this impingement occurs is due to faulty mechanics of the shoulder. During elevation of the arm (reaching overhead), muscles that attach to the scapula must be strong enough to upwardly rotate the scapula in rhythm with the muscles that are elevating the arm (humerus bone). If the scapular muscles are not balanced with other muscles that attach to the shoulder, the rhythm is affected and impingement of the rotator cuff (supraspinatus or infraspinatus) tendons occurs. Impingement can also occur if the glenohumeral joint or scapulothoracic joint is stiff and is unable to glide correctly.
So what can you do about shoulder impingement? First, avoid movements that increase your symptoms. Ice can also help decrease inflammation and pain in the joint. An assessment by a Physical Therapist can determine what is contributing to your shoulder symptoms and how to best address it. A Physical Therapist will assess the mechanics of the shoulder joint, the strength of the shoulder and scapular muscles, and mobility of the cervical and thoracic spine. Addressing these imbalances and faulty mechanics will help the shoulder to move correctly and decrease pinching of the rotator cuff tendons.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, contact us at AKPT for an individualized assessment to learn what you can do to address your symptoms and get back to pain free activity.