Shoulder impingement symptoms

A common condition, impingement syndrome, can commonly occur in the shoulder. Shoulder impingement most often is seen in older adults, but anyone can experience it. Shoulder and rotator cuff bursitis are closely related and can occur in combination with shoulder impingement.

With proper identification and treatment, recovery is obtainable.

How Shoulder Impingement Occurs

Shoulder impingement commonly happens from an injury to the rotator cuff muscles, which are surrounded by bone. Once injured, the pressure begins to build since the swelling is contained within the joint. This swelling puts pressure on the small blood vessels and muscle tissue. When the swelling decreases, the tissue starts to fray like the ends of a rope.


The first symptom of shoulder impingement is difficulty reaching up and behind the back with pain. This movement can be compared to reaching back to put on your coat. You also may have difficulty lifting your arms up overhead without experiencing pain. These symptoms, along with weakness in your shoulder muscles, can be signs of impingement.


If the muscles are injured over a long period of time, they can tear. A rotator cuff tear can be extremely painful and cause significant weakness in your shoulders. You may not be able to elevate your arm, and treatment and recovery may be more intensive.


Confirmation of impingement syndrome can be done easily with an injection of an anesthetic into the space under a shoulder bone. If it immediately relieves pain, then impingement syndrome is the likely diagnosis. An imaging scan can rule out other possibile maladies such as arthritis or bone spurs.


Anti-inflammatory medications may be taken to help alleviate the pain and swelling. You must take these for eight weeks to be effective. Otherwise, you may alleviate the pain but the swelling may not be gone and could worsen after stopping the medication. In addition, stretch regularly, and avoid repetitive motions.