Shoulder impingement is a condition in which the tendons (connective tissue) or the bursa (fluid-filled sac that cushions bones, muscles, and tendons) become impinged, or pinched.
Repetitive, overhead activities that use the shoulder – such as painting, lifting, swimming, or playing tennis – can cause shoulder impingement over time. If left untreated, shoulder impingement can lead to a rotator cuff tear, damage to the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint.
Symptoms of shoulder impingement include:
- Difficulty reaching up behind the back
- Pain and difficulty completing overhead tasks
- Weakness in the shoulder muscles
Your doctor will conduct a complete physical examination and collect your health history to help make the diagnosis.
Your specialist may order an X-ray to rule out shoulder arthritis, which can cause similar symptoms.
If your symptoms do not respond to treatment, your doctor may order an imaging test – such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – to make sure you don’t have a rotator cuff tear.
In this test, your specialist inserts a long, thin instrument (arthroscope) into your elbow joint to assess the cartilage injury.
You will need to avoid all physical activity involving the affected arm while it heals.
Your doctor will likely recommend you take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication – such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen – for six to eight weeks.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe rehabilitation therapy. Our physical therapists establish a unique plan of care that includes specific interventions for your condition and situation to help alleviate pain and improve mobility.
If anti-inflammatory medications have not helped your symptoms, your specialist may give you a cortisone injection, which is a stronger anti-inflammatory medicine that can cause muscle and tendon weakening if used over time.
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