As a physical therapist with years of experience, I have seen many patients who suffer from rotator cuff impingement. This common shoulder injury is often the result of repetitive overhead movements or poor shoulder mechanics during exercise or everyday activities. With this post, I will explain what rotator cuff impingement is, the causes, symptoms and treatment options.
What is Rotator Cuff Impingement?
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and allowing for a wide range of motion. Rotator cuff impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become compressed or pinched between the acromion (a bony process of the shoulder blade) and humerus (the upper arm bone) of the shoulder joint. This can cause pain, inflammation, and even damage to the rotator cuff tendons. There are two main types of rotator cuff impingement: subacrominal impingement and internal impingement.
Subacrominal impingement: This is the most common type of rotator cuff impingement and occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or pinched between the acromion and the humerus. Subacromial impingement can be caused by overuse, poor posture, bone spurs, or shoulder instability. This is typically seen in people ages 40.
Internal impingement: Internal impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become pinched or compressed between the humerus and the glenoid (the shallow socket of the shoulder blade). This type of impingement is typically seen in athletes who participate in overhead sports such as baseball, tennis, and swimming. Internal impingement can cause pain and inflammation in the back of the shoulder.
What causes this impingement to occur?
Rotator cuff impingement can be caused by a number of factors, including:
Overuse: Repetitive overhead movements, such as those performed by athletes, weightlifters, or people who work in jobs that require overhead reaching, can lead to this impingement.
Poor posture: Poor posture, especially when sitting or standing for long periods of time, can lead to muscle imbalances and poor shoulder mechanics that increase the risk of impingement.
Shoulder instability: Shoulder instability, or lack of stability in the shoulder joint, can increase the risk of impingement. This may be confused with scapular dyskinesia and should be ruled out.
Bone spurs: Bone spurs, or small growths of bone, can develop in the shoulder joint, causing impingement
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of rotator cuff impingement is pain in the shoulder that worsens with overhead movements or reaching behind the back. Other
symptoms may include:
Weakness in the shoulder or arm
Difficulty lifting objects overhead
Swelling or tenderness in the shoulder
Clicking or popping sounds when moving the shoulder
How can this be treated?
Treatment for the rotator cuff impingement depends on the severity of the injury and the underlying cause. In many cases, Hybrid Physical Therapy can your solution to help alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage. We may recommend exercises to improve shoulder mechanics and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, as well as advanced manual therapy techniques to reduce pain
and improve range of motion.
In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged tendons or remove bone spurs. However, surgery is typically a last resort and is only recommended when conservative treatments have failed.
How can I prevent this from happening?
To reduce your risk of rotator cuff impingement, it’s important to maintain good posture and use proper mechanics during exercise or activities that involve overhead movements. Strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff and surrounding shoulder muscles can also help prevent injury.
Sleep is another important activity that can worsen your symptoms. It is important to avoid sleeping on the painful side. This may be a temporary solution but it allows your shoulder to receive adequate rest and recovery vs become more irritated and prevent proper sleep throughout the night.
How can Hybrid Physical Therapy help with your recovery?
Having a rotator cuff impingement can be painful and frustrating when it comes to your day-to-day life or sport. At Hybrid Physical Therapy, we will provide a functional screen to determine any movement faults or impairments that may be contributing to your discomfort. This will allow us to develop and execute the right plan to help with your recovery.
Let Hybrid Physical Therapy be the ones to guide you to the road to success and optimize your performance.