Whether you play sports, engage in repetitive arm movements for your job, or just maintain an active lifestyle, it’s easy to hurt your shoulder. Everyone lifts their arms above their heads during daily tasks, such as getting dressed and taking things out of or putting them back into cabinets.
The shoulder joint is a complex structure that is different than other joints. Most joints consist of bones surrounded by muscles. The muscles and tendons of your shoulder joint are surrounded by bone, which aggravates injured tissue when it starts to swell.
You might never have heard of shoulder impingement syndrome, but if your shoulder hurts, you could have it. Our specialists at Tri-State Orthopaedics, share a few facts about this common affliction and how to resolve the pain, swelling, and impaired mobility.
When you raise your arm to shoulder level or higher, you reduce the space between two important shoulder structures: your acromion and your rotator cuff. Your acromion is the bone on top of your shoulder. Your rotator cuff is made up of muscles, tendons, and soft tissues that cover the top of your upper arm bone and attach it to your shoulder blade.
Normally, your bursa protects your rotator cuff from the hard, bony acromion. However, if you lift your arms repeatedly or injure your shoulder, the acromion can rub against the bursa, irritating it. Your bursa could then become inflamed, a condition known as bursitis.
When your bursa is irritated, the inflammation can affect other structures in your rotator cuff, including tendons. If you don’t treat tendinitis, your rotator cuff tendons can become worn down and even begin to shred.
Over time, the tendons can rip in two, causing a rotator cuff tear. Sometimes your biceps muscle ruptures, too.
Activities that can lead to shoulder impingement syndrome
You’re more at risk for shoulder impingement syndrome if you regularly perform activities or sports that require you to move your arms to shoulder height or higher. Activities associated with shoulder impingement syndrome include:
- House painting
- Lifting objects
These normal activities become painful if you have shoulder impingement syndrome. Symptoms include:
- Pain radiating from shoulder to arm
- Minor pain even while at rest
- Sudden pain with lifting or reaching
- Shoulder pain at night
- Shoulder and arm weakness
- Limited mobility
To diagnose shoulder impingement syndrome, our doctors examine your shoulder, looking for tender points. They ask you to move your arm in several directions to determine where you feel pain. They may order imaging studies such as X-rays to determine the source of your pain.
Many cases of minor shoulder impingement syndrome resolve with sufficient rest and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Our experts may also recommend:
- Physical therapy to strengthen the rotator cuff
- Steroid injections to resolve bursitis
- Arthroscopic surgery to repair torn tendons and rotator cuff