By Amy Bates, PTA
If you are experiencing pain and/or a pinching feeling in the top of your shoulder, you may have shoulder impingement. It is a common diagnosis, but can lead to more serious problems if left untreated, such as a rotator cuff tear or further inflammation, pain, and inability to properly raise your arm away from your body. Patients who have been diagnosed with an impingement usually experience a general stiffness, poor ability to maneuver the arm away from the body, and pain in and around the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint is made up of three bones, which consist of the humerus, the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collar bone). The outer, top edge of the scapula is called the acromion. Sometimes, the connective tissue that sits under the acromion can become irritated, inflamed, or even torn. This can result in a shoulder impingement diagnosis.
There are several factors that can lead to this tissue becoming inflamed. Poor postural awareness (rounded shoulders and forward head), repetitive reaching/lifting movements, aging, and shoulder injuries are all common factors that can lead to shoulder impingement.
Physical Therapy can be a tremendous help in restoring range of motion and strengthening the muscles in the back of the shoulder in order to provide improved strength and stability, thus reducing the stress on the connective tissue. PT for shoulder impingement usually consists of safe exercises and manual interventions that can assist in decreasing pain and improving overall movement patterns. Your doctor may also provide anti-inflammatories or recommend a steroid injection.
If you are having shoulder pain with no known mechanism of injury, our team of skilled, compassionate, and knowledgeable physicians, along with our physical therapy staff, would love to be of assistance in helping to decrease your pain and restore your prior level of function. We are one big team, and are ready to get you back to living your best life!
Below are some simple exercises and stretches that can help if you are experiencing this type of pain.
Doorway pec stretch
Stand in a doorway with the affected arm on the door frame in a 90-90 position. Step forward with one foot and shift your weight to the front foot, keeping the shoulders square to the front and without rotating the body. Hold 20 seconds for 5 reps.
Image from www.hep2go.com
Try and squeeze your shoulder blades together, as if pinching a dollar bill between them. Do not let your shoulders lift up towards your ears when you squeeze. Repeat 10-15 times.
Scapular retraction with shoulder ER
Start with squeezing your shoulder blades as in the previous exercise. Keep your elbows in at your sides. After you squeeze the shoulder blades, rotate your arms out as far as is comfortable, keeping the shoulder blades squeezed together. Bring your arms back in and relax the shoulder blades. Repeat 10-15 times.
Lay on your stomach with arms out to the side. Lift the arms up towards the ceiling and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Do not allow the shoulder to hike up towards your ears.