What Causes Shoulder Impingement?

The shoulder configuration is unique in comparison to other joints. While most joints have tendons outside of the bones that connect to larger muscles, the shoulder has tendons confined between bones in the joint. The rotator cuff is a set of tendons that are between the humeral head (upper arm bone) and glenoid (shoulder blade socket). There is also a bursa inside the shoulder joint capsule. When inflammation of the tendons or bursa occur, it can impede shoulder movement or cause shoulder impingement.

Triggers of Shoulder Tendonitis or Bursitis

Tendonitis is an inflammation of tendons, while bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa. Both can occur in the shoulder joint, restricting the space in the shoulder capsule. Rotator cuff tendonitis may occur due to irritation of the tendons from bone spurs, repetitive use of the shoulder, strain of the shoulder tendons or other shoulder injuries. The inflammation in the tendons and bursa can press against the shoulder blade, restricting space in the shoulder joint. When raising the arm, the bones of the shoulder joint come closer together, pinching the tendons or bursa and causing shoulder impingement.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

When shoulder impingement occurs, it can restrict movement and cause acute pain. The space inside the shoulder capsule is reduced, limiting mobility of the arm and shoulder joint. Those with shoulder impingement can experience the following symptoms:

  • Shoulder pain when at rest
  • Increased pain in the shoulder when raising the arm
  • Weakness in the affected arm
  • Difficulty raising the arm above the head

Symptoms may occur suddenly after an injury or worsen over time from repetitive use irritation. Shoulder impingement is common in sports that require overhead arm motions, such as tennis, baseball, swimming and weightlifting.

Treatment for Shoulder Impingement

In many cases, conservative treatment of shoulder impingement is effective. Resting the joint, applying ice and using anti-inflammatory medication can relieve inflammation and pain. Physical therapy can be used to strengthen the arm and shoulder joint for improved mobility.

Surgery is usually only recommended when conservative methods of treatment are ineffective. Dr. Struhl evaluates each patient to determine if arthroscopy could be beneficial to remove bone spurs or other restrictions inside the shoulder joint to treatment shoulder impingement.

If you suffer from symptoms of shoulder impingement, contact our office in NYC or Westchester to schedule an appointment with Dr. Struhl to discuss treatment options.