Shoulder Injury? Chances Are You Have A Shoulder Impingement

Swimmer holding sore shoulder before getting into the water

Do you feel a sudden pain in your shoulder when you lift your arm overhead or backwards? You may have a shoulder impingement injury. Other symptoms include a minor but constant ache in your arm, a pain that extends from the front of your shoulder to the side of your arm, and general shoulder or arm weakness. Shoulder impingement is one of the most common shoulder injuries and is typically caused by overuse of the shoulder.

What happens is that your rotator cuff tendons become intermittently trapped and compressed during shoulder movements. As the bone repeatedly makes an impact with the rotator cuff tendon or bursa (a sac filled with lubricating fluid) in a repetitive way, it can cause inflammation, swelling and painful movements for the shoulder.

Common Causes of a Shoulder Impingement Injury

Shoulder impingement injuries can be caused by:

  • Sports that feature heavy use of shoulders like swimming, tennis and basketball
  • Poor posture (sitting with rounded shoulders)
  • An accident, such as a fall
  • Overloading of the area with heavy lifting
  • Tight anterior chest wall muscles
  • Wear and tear with age
  • Other activities that lead to overuse of the shoulder in an elevated position like painting or installing curtains and blinds.

A persistent shoulder impingement injury may cause shoulder bursitis or a structural injury to your rotator cuff tendons (rotator cuff tendinopathy of rotator cuff tear).

How to Treat a Shoulder Impingement Injury

Treatment options for a shoulder impingement injury will vary depending on the severity of the injury and the cause of it. Your health professional will ask about any previous injuries you may have had, as well as sporting and exercise habits. They’ll also do a series of motion tests with your shoulder, to check for any unusual movement. This will also help rule out other conditions, such as a pinched nerve.

Treatment can include:

  • Massage
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercises
  • Surgery (in very rare cases)
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Simply avoiding repetitive overhead tasks and lifting away from the body

Rest is very important for treating shoulder impingements, especially if it is related to sports. This includes avoiding strenuous exercise or movements that worsen the pain, as well as intermittently placing an ice pack on the area.

Shoulder Impingement Recovery

Every shoulder impingement injury is different and recovery times will vary. In some cases, one treatment session of massage may resolve the issue. Other times, it can take weeks or even months of physiotherapy. Your recovery and rehabilitation will be determined by several factors, which will become clearer after a physiotherapist’s clinical assessments.

The average time of recovery is around three to six months. More severe cases can take as long as a year to fully heal. Most people with a shoulder impingement injury can return to doing their normal activities within two to four weeks. You’ll have to avoid activities that are strenuous for the shoulder like tennis, swimming and basketball until you are fully recovered.

Visit Us for Physiotherapy and Massage in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of services including physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

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