What is Shoulder Impingement?

We’ve all heard the term ‘Shoulder Impingement’, but what is it and how can you recover from it?

Shoulder impingement is a term often used by therapists to describe why your shoulder is painful or has a restricted range of motion. The issue with this term is that it is misleading and overused.

The thing is 'Shoulder impingement', is actually a symptom of a bigger picture not the cause of the issue. Because of the anatomy and design of our shoulders, structures are constantly ‘impinging’ on one another. It’s only when something becomes inflamed that it becomes painful and we then seek professional help.

There are so many different structures that pass through a similar area that when one becomes inflamed such as bursae, tendons, ligaments and the joint capsule we then feel that pain on certain movements.

Often, those who perform overhead sports such as tennis, dodgeball and baseball are those that suffer from ‘Shoulder impingement’. These populations are much more likely to suffer from the condition because of the number of repetitions they perform in their respective sports.

However, just because you do not perform overhead sports doesn’t mean that you can’t suffer from this type of shoulder pain.

If, for example, you go from never throwing an object to suddenly throwing lots in a short space of time (such as when we get dogs), this too can cause different structures to be stressed and fatigued, especially when they aren’t conditioned.

If we then carry on with this activity this can lead to tears or inflammation and if not addressed then can progress to ‘Shoulder Impingement’, with any of the previously mentioned structures becoming the main source of pain and issue.

Furthermore, it is also worth addressing the whole area. The structures that become impinged may be influenced by other issues and problems in the region such as muscle hypertrophy/atrophy caused by different factors, or even other conditions such as scapular dyskinesis.

Rehab for this condition often involves calming stuff down, to begin with, and this is often achieved through isometric strengthening exercises, stretching and manual therapy.

Once everything begins to settle down, the rehab will progress onto a more strength-based focus to build load tolerance and avoid flaring up the condition again. Once you are far enough through the rehab chain, rehab will work towards prevention to allow you to continue activities you love without fear of this condition occurring again.

Thank you for reading,

Keep working!

Ethan Bell

Ultimate Recovery

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