Shoulder Impingement

Table of Contents 


Have you ever wondered what a shoulder impingement is or experienced it yourself? How do you treat it?



In this post we’ll talk about what a shoulder impingement is and how we would treat it, whether it being with exercises or other modalities.  

What is a shoulder impingement and how can it occur?

A shoulder impingement is a chronic compression injury to the soft-tissue structures of the shoulder joint. When you move your arm overhead, the space between your humerus (arm bone) and the acromion (pointy end) of your shoulder blade shrinks, and the tendons that run through that area from your rotator cuff can get irritated. Normally, this temporary compression does not lead to any injury, but consistently repeating overhead motions can lead to irritation and pain. If left untreated, the constant compression of the structures in the shoulder joint can lead to more debilitating effects and chronic shoulder pain.


Here is a list of symptoms you may have due to a shoulder impingement:

  • Pain or pinching sensation with moving your arm above your head, reaching motions, or throwing
  • Loss of full range of motion
  • Tenderness along the front of the shoulder or the top of the shoulder that moves into the side of the arm
  • Discomfort while sleeping on the affected side

    It is possible to experience only a few of these symptoms or a combination of symptoms, rather than all of these symptoms. For instance, you may have pain when throwing or moving your arm overhead, but no pain in the nights while sleeping. Visiting a physiotherapist can help narrow down your specific diagnosis in accordance with the symptoms you're experiencing.



How do you treat a shoulder impingement?

Treatment for a shoulder impingement depends on the severity of the injury and the types of overhead motions required for daily activities, sports, or work. A shoulder impingement can be treated through a combination of:

  • Nonsurgical – rest
  • Rehabilitation – visit a physiotherapist
  • More serious cases may require surgical intervention to create more space in the shoulder joint. However, surgery is considered a last-resort and other interventions should be attempted prior to surgery.AdobeStock_302157081

How do you prevent shoulder impingements?

There are several ways in which you can prevent or manage shoulder impingements. Look at the following list:

  • Good warm-up
  • Stretching
  • Strengthen the rotator-cuff muscles
  • Move correctly when performing sport-specific movements, such as throwing, hitting, or any movement that involves moving your hand over your head
  • Limiting repetitive overhead movements

Sport specific exercises

Here are some good exercises for shoulder impingements!

Internal Rotation: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent with the soles of your feet on the ground. Then start by slowing extending one leg out. Make sure to fully extend your leg out and press your knee into the ground. Then bring your leg back up to a bent position and repeat. 


External Rotation: Start by sitting upright on a table or bed. Have your legs bent up with the soles of your feet on the table. Start by slowing extending one leg out straight. At the end try to really push your knee into the table and try to lift your heel off the table. 


Side Lying External Rotation: Start by lying on your side, with the healthy shoulder on the ground. Bend the arm on the same side of the affected shoulder into a 90-degree position and hold it close to your body. Keeping your elbow joint close to your body, rotate your arm so that your hand moves above your body. This exercise can be performed with or without an additional weight.

Wall Sits: Start by standing against a wall or something stable. Have your feet about hip width apart and slowing start to squat down to a comfortable position. Remember to keep your knees pointing forward or slightly outwards. We don't want the knees to cave inward. Then from that squat position slowly stand back up to neutral and repeat. 


Scapular Push-Ups: 


How to get help...

If you need further information on shoulder impingements or have any other concerns, please send us an email at or you visit our booking page.



"Will I need surgery?" 

Most shoulder impingements resolve through noninvasive therapies, such as manual therapies, exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications. If these therapies fail to resolve the issue, a cortisone injection may be considered, which can help resolve the lingering pain and inflammation in the joint. If this therapy fails, then surgery may be considered. However, surgery is typically reserved for very severe shoulder impingements that do not resolve within two years.

"What are the signs and symptoms of a possible shoulder impingement?" 

The most common symptom of shoulder impingement is pain with overhead motions, such as throwing, catching, or hitting. Other symptoms include localized swelling around the shoulder joint, pain reaching behind your back, and general shoulder stiffness.

"What tendons are affected in a shoulder impingement?" 

The primary tendon affected in a shoulder impingement is the rotator cuff tendon, which is a tendon for the teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis muscles. These muscles contribute to overall joint stability and travel from your shoulder blade to your top of your humerus (arm bone), and are responsible for external rotation, internal rotation, abduction.

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