Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
What is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
The shoulder joint is made up of the head of the bone of the arm, the scapula and ligaments connecting them. Attached to this joint is a group of muscles called the rotator cuff muscles which helps you move your shoulder joint. There is also a soft tissue called bursa which serves as the shoulder’s shock absorber.
These muscles are attached to your shoulder bones by tough tissues called tendons. One of these tendons, called the supraspinatus tendon, courses through a small space in the shoulder joint where it could get trapped.
Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain caused by impingement or compression of the rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus tendon, or the bursa in the shoulder joint.
What causes Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
Shoulder impingement syndrome is caused by repeated overhead movement of the shoulder as seen in activities such as swimming, painting, lifting, and overhead sports such as tennis.
What are the symptoms of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
The commonest symptom of shoulder impingement syndrome is shoulder pain. Typically, this pain is constant throughout the day and gets worse when you make overhead movement of your arm such as reaching up for something in a high cabinet.
With this condition, you would also have weakness in your shoulder as well as difficult making overhead arm movements.
How is shoulder Impingement Syndrome diagnosed?
To confirm this diagnosis, your doctor will do a physical examination of your shoulder and ask you certain questions. Imaging studies such as X-rays of your shoulder and preferably a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan would be recommended to visualize the structures in your shoulder joint to confirm the condition and exclude similar problems.
How is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Treated?
The aim of treatment for impingement syndrome is pain relief. Your doctor would prescribe pain relief medications especially the Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory group of drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
You would use these medicines prescribed for up to six weeks for satisfactory resolution of the pain. Common side effects of NSAIDs are stomach irritation and bleeding, so be sure to use them as prescribed by your doctor.
In addition to taking pain relief drugs, your doctor would advise that you avoid arm movements that worsen the pain. If you must make an overhead movement to pick or place something, you should find someone to do that for you.
Furthermore depending on the severity of the pain, you might be referred to a physical therapist who would teach you to perform certain stretch exercises to strengthen the muscles of your shoulder joint and relieve the pain.
If the shoulder pain does not resolve despite proper use of your pain medicines and physical therapy, your doctor may recommend you for an MRI or a special type of X-ray of the joint called an arthrogram, to check if the shoulder muscles or tendons are torn.
What are the complications of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
If this condition is not treated on time, the tendons and muscles may become severely inflamed that they tear. If this happens, you would need surgery to repair the tears.