What are the common shoulder impingement symptoms

You might have a little bit of pain in one of your shoulders or find it is weaker than normal. You could also have problems lifting your arm above your head, making it difficult to put on a jacket or reach for something behind you in the car. 

There are two types of pain you might experience:

  • A constant dull ache. This is often worse at night. The pain is usually at the side of the shoulder and may extend down the arm even to the elbow. Quite often it doesn’t seem to be coming from the shoulder joint at all.
  • A sharp pain when you lift your arm. You’ll feel the pain just below the acromion, which is the bony point at the top of your shoulder. It usually starts when your arm is horizontal, and eases off when you bring your arm back to vertical.

What is a shoulder impingement

With shoulder impingement syndrome, the tissues under the acromion become inflamed. This causes pain, which can be more severe depending on the shape of the bone. There can be two main causes:

  • If you take part in throwing sports like the javelin, or do overhead activities such as hanging wallpaper or painting.
  • If your muscles are under-developed and you then start a tough training programme.

You’re more likely to suffer from either condition the older you become.

For diagnosis, your shoulder specialist will talk to you about the symptoms and examine your shoulder. They will take X-rays and may perform an ultrasound to make sure there’s no tearing of the tendons.

What are the best treatments for shoulder impingement

If you’re lucky, all you may have to do is take anti-inflammatory drugs and avoid any activities that aggravate the condition. An injection of anaesthetic and steroid may help to bring down any acute pain. Once the inflammation has gone down, you should do some exercises to strengthen your shoulders.  We can recommend a physiotherapist.

If symptoms persist, your doctor will probably examine the shoulder again, and may suggest an acromioplasty, which is when part of the undersurface of the acromion is shaved off to stop it rubbing the inflamed area.