Shoulder Impingement

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition where a structure within your shoulder is intermittently trapped and compressed during certain movements. (Usually when you lift your arm.) This causes injury to the shoulder tendons and bursa resulting in painful shoulder movements. Athletes who make repetitive overhead movements, including swimmers, tennis players, throwers, and weightlifters, are at a high risk of developing this condition. However, this injury can also affect those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.


Characteristics/ Clinical presentation

– Pain is experienced when the arm is used for overhead activities and is lifted above the horizontal plane.
– Shoulder pain that can extend from the top of the shoulder to the elbow.
– Pain when lying on the affected shoulder.
– Shoulder pain at rest as your condition deteriorates.
– Muscle weakness or pain when attempting to reach or lift.
– Pain when putting your hand behind your back or head.
– Pain reaching for the seat-belt.

Your shoulder shouldn’t feel stiff. If it is, you may have frozen shoulder instead.


Clinical Diagnosis


Shoulder impingement can be diagnosed by a Physiotherapist or Sport Therapist and Rehabilitator through a series of questioning and physical tests.

An ultrasound scan can also be useful to diagnose an impingement and to detect any associated injuries, such as Shoulder Bursitis, Rotator-cuff tears, or Shoulder Tendinopathy.





There are many structures that can be injured in a Shoulder Impingement. Once the injury is suspected it is important to confirm the exact type of impingement it is, as treatment can vary depending on the specific structure. The Physiotherapist will be able to distinguish between structures and guide you through the rehab process.

Researchers have concluded that there are essentially 7 stages of therapy that need to be covered to effectively rehabilitate these injuries and prevent recurrence.

– Early Injury: Protection, Pain Relief & Anti-inflammatory Treatment
– Regain Full Shoulder Range of Motion
– Restore Scapular Control and Scapulohumeral Rhythm
– Regain Normal Neck-Scapulo-Thoracic-Shoulder Function
– Restore Rotator Cuff Strength
– Rehabilitate High Speed, Power, Proprioception and Agility Exercises
– Return to Sport and/or Work

Alongside the above 7 stages, it is very important to have your soft-tissue worked on throughout. During any shoulder injury you will develop imbalances and tightness in surrounding muscles. Physiotherapy and Sports Massage would be ideal to combat this.

Corticosteroid Injections
Corticosteroid injections can be useful in the initial pain relieving stage if conservative methods fail to reduce the pain and inflammation. It is important to note that steroid injections typically give you 4-6 weeks of pain relief. This is an ideal period to see a Physiotherapist and try to improve your strength so that when the affect of the steroid wares off, you no longer have the impingement.


Here at Comfort Health

At Comfort Health we offer a range of treatments from Sports Massage, Physiotherapy and Acupuncture, along with a variety of other services which all can help with rotator cuff impingement.


If you feel like you could benefit from a treatment from one of our practitioners –  Click Here and book in today.

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