Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when tissue in the shoulder is pinched or “impinged”. The pinching of the tissues in the shoulder causes pain and movement problems. Generally it is the rotator cuff that is being compressed with shoulder movement. Shoulder impingement can also be from the result of an injury. Repetitive overhead motion is the number one cause of shoulder impingement. This puts manual laborers, weightlifters, and athletes at higher risk of shoulder impingement. Poor posture can also contribute to shoulder impingement. If shoulder impingement is not treated more serious problems, like rotator cuff tear, can occur. Physical therapist can restore proper mechanics in the shoulder. By restoring proper motion it will decrease pain, improve mobility and strengthen the shoulder.
What is shoulder impingement syndrome?
Pain with shoulder impingement is usually caused from overuse of the rotator cuff tendons. This overuse can not only result in shoulder pain, but also limited or faulty movement. Shoulder impingement syndrome is also commonly known as “subacromial” impingement. This si because the tendons, ligaments, and bursa under the “acromion” are pinched or compressed. The shoulder complex is made up of three bones the humerus, shoulder blade, and collar bone. The “acromion” is on the top of the shoulder blade and can be felt as the bump on the tip of the shoulder.
Besides the rotator cuff tendon the bursa is also beneath the acromion. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that provides cushion between a tendon and bone. The bursa beneath the acromion keeps the rotator cuff tendon from excessively rubbing against the acromion. Impingement symptoms can occur when compression and microtrauma harm the tendons.
5 ways to prevent shoulder impingement
As the common saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are currently having shoulder pain you should go see a physical therapist. Once your episode of shoulder pain has subsided the following tips can help you prevent further episodes from occurring.
1. Maintain proper strength in the shoulder and shoulder-blade muscles.
Having appropriate rotator cuff strength and activation is vital to having a healthy shoulder. A large majority of rotator cuff problems are due to overuse and over stress on the rotator cuff tendons. The stronger the rotator cuff muscles are the stronger the tendons are. The stronger the tendons are the more stress and use they will be able to handle without being over worked.
2. Keep appropriate muscle control
Motor control is the ability to contract specific muscles in the appropriate sequence. While rotator cuff strength is important so is control. The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder. If these muscles are not firing in the right sequence shoulder stability can be compromised.
3. Regularly stretching the shoulders, neck, and middle-back region.
The shoulder is naturally a mobile and less stable joint. Just as with everything else in the body to maintain shoulder mobility you need to use it. Stretches do not need to be complicated, just take your shoulder through a pain free full range of motion daily. The shoulder, neck and upper back all play off of each other. If one is tight or not moving the way it shoulder the others will have to make up for it. Often times shoulder pain and impingement is due to extra stress on the shoulder.
4. Maintain proper posture and shoulder alignment
The shoulder requires a lot of muscular control to maintain its stability. If the muscle of the shoulder and shoulder blade are put in the wrong position they will not be able to work. This is were proper posture and alignment play a role. Significant improvements in strength and shoulder control can be seen with changes in posture.
5. Avoid hunching over for long periods of time
This posture is especially true when sitting and using the computer. This sitting posture is often referred to as upper cross syndrome. With weakness of the upper back and front neck stabilizers. As well as tightness in the muscles at the base of the skull and front of the shoulders. The first rule is to avoid sitting for long periods of time. If you need to sit then take frequent breaks and stand up, take at least 10 minutes every hour.