Shoulder Impingement and Physiotherapy: Everything You Wanted to Know About It

Shoulder pain is a common ache reported around the world. Various estimates suggest that almost 67% of people experience shoulder pain and discomfort at some point in their life. The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body, and it comprises tendons, muscles, and ligaments. All these are responsible for shoulder flexibility that we enjoy. These allow you to raise your arms over the head, throw a ball, scratch your back, etc.  Failure of the above-mentioned factors results in shoulder pain.

Of all the reasons, the rotator-cuff injury is the most common cause of shoulder pain. This injury leads to impingement syndrome. This post discusses various aspects of impingement syndrome, including its causes, symptoms, home remedies, and employing physiotherapy for pain relief.

Causes of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
When you lift your arms or stretch them to access your head or back, the rotator cuff tendon passes through subacromial space, which is located at the top of the shoulder. Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendon catches or rubs the bone at the top of the shoulder. This bone is referred as acromion.

Shoulder impingement can happen if:

  • The acromion is hooked or curved. By nature, it is flat, whereas curved or hooked acromion is a birth defect.
  • There are various small bony growths on the acromion. These growths are known as spurs, which may develop with age.
  • The tendon is torn, swollen or stiffened due to injury or overuse of arms or age-related wear and tear.
  • The fluid-filled sac bursa is inflamed or irritated. Bursa is located between the acromion and tendon, and its inflammation is also referred as bursitis. Overuse of arm and shoulder injuries are two prime reasons of bursitis.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement
Shoulder impingement may develop gradually, or start suddenly while performing various physical exercises. Tenderness and swelling in the front shoulder are the most common symptoms of this condition. However, you may feel pain while lifting your arm, or when the arm is lowered.

Many patients do not seek a proper treatment in the earlier phases of the shoulder cuff pain, because beginning symptoms are often mild. The symptoms may include the following:

  • Shoulder pain extending from the top of the shoulder to your elbow
  • Muscle pain or weakness when trying to lift, or reach for something kept at higher places
  • Shoulder aching or pain at night that may affect your sleep
  • Acute shoulder pain when trying to access the seat belt, or trying to reach the back

If the tendons are severely injured, they may lead to partial or complete tear, thereby resulting in a rotator cuff injury. This will make hand movements difficult until a proper treatment is taken.

Who is affected by Shoulder Impingement?
Impingement syndrome affects people who are actively involved in labor-intensive physical activities, such as swimming, weightlifting, tennis, golf, etc. Also, it is likely to affect people who are engaged in occupations that demand repeated shoulder movements like overhead lifting, stretching above the shoulder height, etc.

Easy-to-Follow Home Remedies for Shoulder Impingement
Here are some easy-to-follow steps for treating shoulder impingement:

  • Avoid activities that may worsen the pain for a few weeks or days. These may include lifting arms above the head (such as swimming, playing tennis, etc.).
  • Stay active and continue with your daily activities. Don’t stop shoulder movement completely, and do as much as possible, so that the shoulder doesn’t become stiff or weak.
  • Wrap ice cubes in the towel or take an ice pack and apply it around your shoulder for about 15-20 minutes a day. Repeat this several times a day to seek a speedy relief.
  • Consult your GP for anti-inflammatory painkillers.

All the above-mentioned tips will help you overcome the inconvenience caused by the shoulder impingement. However, many people still don’t realize that shoulder impingement is a serious injury, which requires a proper treatment, exercise, and rest. This is where physiotherapy can help. How does it work? Read the below section to know more.

Why Physiotherapy for Shoulder Impingement?
Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for conditions like tendonitis, and bursitis of shoulder, along with NSAIDs and analgesics. It has proven to be extremely successful in treating this condition.

Although recovery time may largely vary across various individuals, still physiotherapy works for all. An experienced physiotherapist will help you to devise a plan, which is specific to your conditions. A shoulder impingement treatment may include the following:

  • Pain Management: Many times, you fail to identify movements, which cause pain. A physiotherapist will help you identify, and avoid them. Additionally, they will help you correct postures, which are known to induce impingement compression.
  • Manual Therapies: These help regularize your shoulder movements. Some of these include soft-tissue massaging, shoulder stretching, and soft joint movements. Your therapist will show you how to employ these therapies to speed up the healing process.
  • Motion Exercises: These include various stretching exercises that help in easing movement of your shoulder and shoulder blade. Motion exercises will help you stretch your arms like before, without feeling the pain.
  • Strengthening Exercises: As the name suggests, these exercises are designed to strengthen the shoulder muscles. Often with this syndrome, the strength of rotator-cuff muscle diminishes. The head of the humerus drifts upward and forward due to this weakening. Thus, strengthening the rotator-cuff, and scapular muscles help in positioning the head of the humerus bone. The physiotherapist will help you learn resistance training, and strengthening exercises.

Do you suffer from any of the above-mentioned symptoms? Do you find it difficult to perform your daily activities? If yes, it is a time to approach a reliable physiotherapist in your area. Spinalogy Clinic is one such reliable and trusted physiotherapy clinic in Aundh, Pune that has helped several active individuals regain their shoulder strength, as well as overcome shoulder pain induced by shoulder impingement syndrome.