Shoulder impingement syndrome affects many sports. Baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball, and swimming athletes are the most affected.
How does shoulder impingement syndrome develop?
The rotator cuff tendon crosses through a very small space between the clavicle’s acromion and the arm’s humerus. Because of the small space, the rotator cuff tendon is susceptible to impingement between these two bones.
When the arm moves, the rotator cuff muscle and tendon start to rub against the acromion. This causes the tendon to become irritated and inflamed. Therefore, the swelling fills the space and creates pressure. And from the pressure, a whole list of complaints occurs.
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Symptoms:
- Pain when you reach or lift your arm to the side or above your head.
- Pain when you lower your arm from an extended position.
- Sensitivity and pain on the outside front of your shoulder.
- A loss of mobility and flexibility of the shoulder.
- Sensitivity or pain when lying or sleeping on the afflicted side.
- Sensitivity, pain, or achiness is felt mainly at night.
- Pain reaching behind your neck or back.
- The shoulder or arm is weak and feels stiff.
Symptoms tend to get worse gradually over weeks to months. It does not seem to go back and forth to good.
How to Avoid and Treat Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Understand Why and How
You must look at the pain and trace it back to the cause. Many common issues can cause impingement pain. You think it is your shoulder, and it is not. For example, pain and impingement are caused by poor shoulder alignment, imbalanced shoulder strength, weakness, poor posture, overtraining, sitting too much, and lifting too heavy. And then you add athletic movements on top of that.
Understanding why it is just as important as how it is happening. You don’t just want to treat it to get better. You want to prevent it from returning.
Physical therapy works great for shoulder impingement. The simple exercises help rebuild strength, alignment, mobility, and range of motion.
In addition, make sure the therapist checks your alignment. Your poor posture and misalignment are hidden unconscious causes. So, have your alignment checked because stability is essential to move correctly. And it creates a maximal range of motion and mobility. I say this because if you are a baseball pitcher and misaligned at specific joints, it can be the cause and return of the impingement.
For example, if your hips are tilted back, your thoracic mid-back rounds forward out of alignment. When the thoracic rounds forward, it misaligns the neck and shoulder by leaning and rounding forward. When your shoulders are rounded forward, it weakens the rotator cuff, and you cannot lift your arm into a full range of motion above your head. Unfortunately, you lose mobility—all caused by poor hip alignment.
The use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, such as ibuprofen, can alleviate shoulder discomfort and swelling. The doctor may also provide an anti-inflammatory injection if the inflammation is severe.
Surgery will increase the space surrounding your rotator cuff by shaving some bone away arthroscopically. This will reduce the thickness of the bone. Therefore, it can move more freely without rubbing on the bone.
Here are some quick strengthening tips.
- Strengthen your mid-back muscles. Focus on pulling the shoulder blades back and contracting those muscles. Strengthening those muscles helps to align the shoulder joints better and restore mobility.
- Perform isometric and stability movements holding for about 15 seconds.
- Do strength movements slowly for about 12-15 reps. This is because moving slowly retrains the muscles faster.
- Think thrice. Put ice on your shoulder for 15-20 minutes three times a day. This will really help reduce swelling and pain.
Here are some specific exercises to help strengthen and rehab your rotator cuff.
Shoulder impingement takes about three to five months to heal completely. However, you can usually return to moderate training in about two weeks. The more faithful you are with your rest and treatment, the faster you will recover.