Shoulder Pain Bodywell

Understanding shoulder impingement: causes, symptoms, and treatment

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Shoulder impingement is a common condition characterised by pain and discomfort in the shoulder joint, particularly during overhead movements. It occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become inflamed, which reduces the space between the bones of the shoulder girdle. Additionally, shoulder impingement may be caused by a condition known as bursitis – the irritation and swelling of a fluid-filled sack within the shoulder joint.

What causes shoulder impingement?

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Shoulder impingement can develop due to various factors, including:

  • Repetitive overhead activities: People who frequently engage in activities that involve repetitive overhead movements, such as painting, swimming, or playing tennis, are at a higher risk of developing shoulder impingement
  • Anatomical factors: Certain anatomical variations in the structure of the shoulder joint, such as a hooked or curved shape of the acromion (bone within the shoulder), can predispose individuals to shoulder impingement
  • Muscle weakness or imbalance: Weakness or imbalance in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, particularly the rotator cuff muscles and scapular stabilisers, can lead to abnormal movement patterns and increased stress on the tendons, contributing to inflammation and impingement
Symptoms of shoulder impingement

The symptoms of shoulder impingement often develop gradually and may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the front or side of the shoulder, especially during overhead movements or reaching behind the back
  • Weakness or loss of strength in the affected shoulder
  • Restriction and pain with reaching overhead or behind the back
  • Pain that worsens when lying on the affected side/shoulder
  • A clicking or popping sensation with certain shoulder movements. Fun fact: this is known as “crepitus”

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Diagnosis and treatment options

Diagnosing shoulder impingement typically involves a thorough case history about your symptoms & their onset, and physical examination including an assessment of range of motion, strength, and orthopaedic tests to determine when and where your pain is felt. This is the kind of examination you can expect when seeing one of our osteopaths at Bodywell Healthcare.

In the case of severe pain or pain that is not improving with osteopathic management, medical imaging such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRIs may be referred for to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other potential causes of shoulder pain.

Treatment for shoulder impingement aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve shoulder function. Common treatment options include:

  • Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate shoulder pain and modifying movements to reduce strain on the shoulder joint
  • Manual therapy: Techniques such as soft tissue massage, joint articulation, muscle energy techniques, and joint manipulations may be used by our osteopaths to improve the mobility of the shoulder joint and related structures such as the rib cage, neck, and mid back regions
  • Exercise rehabilitation: A tailored exercise program will be provided, focusing on strengthening the rotator cuff and mid back muscles, improving shoulder and spinal mobility, and stretching techniques to reduce tension in the surrounding muscles
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed by a general practitioner or specialist in order to reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder
  • Ice and/or Heat therapy: May provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation and assist in reducing muscle tension. Our fantastic range of Wili Heat Bags can be used both in the microwave and freezer for your desired outcome – feel free to come in and check them out!
  • Surgical Intervention: In cases where conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical intervention such as arthroscopic shoulder decompression may be considered to create more space within the shoulder joint and alleviate pressure on the tendons
Prevention tips

While shoulder impingement cannot always be completely prevented, certain strategies can help reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  • Maintain good posture and ergonomics, especially during activities that involve overhead movements
  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activities to avoid overloading the shoulder joint
  • Incorporate regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the shoulder muscles into your fitness routine
  • Take frequent breaks during repetitive activities to rest the shoulder muscles and prevent overuse injuries

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You can expect your osteopath at Bodywell Healthcare to formulate a thorough treatment plan based on your individual presentation. This comprehensive treatment plan will include advice on activity modifications, manual therapy approaches, and an individualised exercise program.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or restricted movement, or simply want help with preventative measures, our osteopaths at Bodywell Healthcare are ready to help!

You can book HERE with any of our practitioners on our website or alternatively you can call 9717 1200 to speak with one of our friendly reception team members.