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Shoulder Impingement

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What Is Shoulder Impingement?

Also known as swimmer’s or thrower’s shoulder, shoulder impingement is a condition in which the rotator cuff tendons get pinched by the shoulder joint. If the tendons are irritated and inflamed without the pinching effect, it’s generally known simply as shoulder tendinitis. The shoulder is made up of several bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that help your shoulder joint move and give it strength. The collarbone (clavicle) is connected to the acromion arch, a bone at the top of your shoulder that includes an open area (subacromial space) for the rotator cuff tissues to pass through. If this space narrows, causing irritation and a pinching effect on the rotator cuff tendons, then shoulder impingement can develop. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:

  • Minor pain with or without activity
  • Discomfort radiating from the front of the shoulder and to the side of the arm
  • Acute pain when lifting or reaching
  • Noticeable pain when throwing a ball or serving in tennis
  • More severe pain over time, including at night
  • Reduced strength and loss of shoulder motion
  • Difficulty or discomfort performing activities that require placing the arm behind the back

Both young athletes and more mature individuals are susceptible to shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tendinitis. If you’re bothered by shoulder pain that you believe could be shoulder impingement syndrome, our extensively trained orthopaedic surgeons can help. We utilize state-of-the-art techniques and emphasize a minimally invasive, conservative approach to provide optimal results for our patients. Talk to us today to learn more.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Impingement

Initially, we will try non-surgical methods to lessen pain and improve mobility. In many cases, minimally invasive techniques can be very helpful in managing shoulder impingement. Since this is a progressive condition, it’s important to seek out care as soon as you notice an issue to reduce the likelihood of needing more aggressive treatment or surgery.

Non-Surgical Shoulder Impingement Treatment

The RICE protocol can be beneficial, which includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the affected shoulder. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be used, and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen may be recommended. Physical therapy can teach you stretches and exercises designed to minimize inflammation and restore strength and flexibility to the arm and shoulder. Steroid injections can also be used to reduce inflammation. During your initial consultation, we will discuss your options and develop a customized treatment plan to address your shoulder impingement syndrome. If pain and dysfunction continue, surgery may be an option to provide long-term correction.

Surgical Shoulder Impingement Options

The purpose of surgery in shoulder impingement is to widen the subacromial space within the shoulder joint so the tendons can move easily and without irritation. This can be performed using a traditional open technique or with shoulder arthroscopy, an approach that uses small incisions and a camera to view the treated area with less damage caused to surrounding tissues. Arthroscopic surgery also offers patients faster recovery and a lower risk of complications than open surgery. If this procedure is recommended for your condition, our surgeons will discuss the details and what to expect during your consultation.

Recovery Following Shoulder Surgery

After arthroscopic shoulder surgery, you should be able to return home the same day, and we will provide medication to help reduce your discomfort and make the healing process easier. You will likely need to wear a shoulder brace and possibly an immobilizer to aid in your recovery. Several activities will be limited for a period of time, after which point physical therapy will be recommended to allow you to regain strength and mobility in the affected arm. Every person heals at a different rate, and your experience will be unique. The best advice is to be patient, ask questions when you have them, and follow all the doctor’s instructions to optimize your outcome.

Our entire team is dedicated to delivering exceptional care. Please reach out to us at any time with questions, concerns, or requests.