What is the Truth about Shoulder Impingement and What Really Causes It?


shoulder impingement

When it comes to shoulder pain it may not simply be isolated to your shoulder! Let’s explore the bigger picture of shoulder impingement syndrome and what you can do about it.


Then what is shoulder impingement syndrome?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition marked by irritation and inflammation of the tendons that slide through narrow openings in the shoulder. It's usually associated with specific activities, although it also can be caused by an underlying disease or problem in another part of the body. Shoulder impingement syndrome is most common in middle-aged, physically active people and athletes such as tennis players and overhead throwers.

Recently we had one of our patients, Ricky, who suffered from shoulder pain for months. When his health insurance company offered to pay for a visit to their chiropractor, he decided it was time to do something about the pain. The treatments proved quite effective and within weeks, he said things had already started to get better. Let’s look at what might have been happening to Ricky and what aggravated his condition and suffering.

What causes shoulder impingement to happen?

shoulder impingement

In a perfect world, your shoulder does not become painful with activities.

When you raise your arm, the tendons, muscles, and other soft tissue glide over the bone structure, causing irritation. When the tissue rubs too much, the bone structure can start to become arthritic, leading to permanent damage.

So why is it happening? Think of it like this: when you put on a stiff pair of shoes, you can feel the front part of your foot begin to ache. Why? Because the shoe doesn't allow your foot to bend with comfort, causing the muscle to work harder to bend under the shoe. It's a similar concept with your shoulder.


Bad posture can also cause this to happen

shoulder impingement

Bad posture can cause a lot of different issues with the body. One of the most common problems that can be caused by bad posture is shoulder impingement. In order to understand how shoulder impingement occurs, it is helpful to understand how the shoulder works. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint just like the hip. It is one of the most mobile joints in the entire body and allows you to move in almost every direction. The shoulder joint is protected by the shoulder blade and the acromion process. The action of the shoulder blade sliding along the acromion process is the cause of shoulder impingement. This sliding causes friction which causes the tissue to become inflamed and irritated. This is what causes shoulder impingement.


Reasons poor posture causes shoulder impingement syndrome


shoulder impingement
  1. Slouched posture allows your shoulders and head to come forward and to allow the chest muscles (pecs) to become tight.

  2. Slouched posture affects the use of your back and scapular (shoulder blade) muscles to support your back and shoulders. This lets the muscles lengthen and weaken, so they become ineffective in supporting your back and shoulders with activities.

  3. Slouched posture causes the tendons and ligaments around the shoulder joint to become pinched and inflamed.

  4. When you slouch, you are straining these structures and they can become strained or even torn.

Are there other causes of your shoulder impingement pain?

Yes, poor posture also causes strain on your neck and tightness when you have a head forward posture. If there is tightness of your neck joints and muscles it may cause irritation or compression on some nerves.


How can I treat shoulder impingement?

Treatment of shoulder impingement syndrome should focus on prevention. Why? Because once a patient is suffering with this syndrome, they are more prone to re-injury. I tell my patients to avoid overhead movements and to try not to carry things in the front of their body. I also give them a list of stretches and exercises they can do to promote healing, flexibility, and strength.


Want to get rid of your shoulder pain and get back to enjoying your activities?

Use these additional tips to help your shoulder impingement syndrome now!

We think you’ll find them to be both easy to do and very familiar.

  1. Maintain proper back support while sitting to keep yourself in a good position. Remember to keep your head and shoulders back and avoid slouching. Do this by tucking your chin and pulling your shoulder blades back. Try this at your desk.

  2. Consider a seated shoulder stretch where you sit up straight in your chair. Place your left hand on your right shoulder and cup your left elbow with your right hand. Now as you roll your shoulders down and back, pull gently and let your left elbow move smoothly across your chest. Extend your left arm as you do this. If you feel a stretch in your left shoulder, good then hold this stretch for 10 seconds. You’ll want to try to build up to 30 seconds with each repetition. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Together this is one rep, try for 2-4 as you are able.

  3. A seated chest stretch will open your chest and relax those muscles. Simply start by sitting straight in a chair without arms, facing sideways.Gently roll your shoulders down and back. Reach back to clasp your hands behind you. Intertwine your fingers so that you turn your palms to face you. List your hands toward the ceiling until you feel some tightness and you feel the stretch at the front of your shoulders and across your chest. Hold 10-20 seconds as you are able. Return to the starting position slowly and repeat 2-4 times as you are able.

  4. Ensure that your workstation works for you, always. Are your desk and chair at the right height? Elbows should be at 90° so that you are bent and in a relaxed position while typing at the keyboard. Desk should be of an appropriate height and allow you to work with your arms and hands following the natural motions of your body. A good rule of thumb is that your elbows should not be higher than your shoulders while you are typing. It is also important to determine the proper monitor height.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, especially ongoing, then it's important to visit your doctor. There are any number of problems that can occur with your shoulders that can lead to pain.

Shoulder impingement is, of course, one of the most common issues that people experience. This occurs most when your shoulder is in a state of constant use and causes the surrounding tissues to swell and lead to pain.

When it comes to handling shoulder impingement there are things you can and should do.

  • Make changes to your diet and physical activity level.

  • Make sure your workstation is ergonomically correct.

  • Go to physical therapy sessions regularly to help restore your mobility.

  • See a doctor who may refer you to a surgeon for possible surgical treatment although there are exercises for prevention and treatments to reduce pain and increase functionality that a professional therapist can certainly try ahead of such a decision.

If you’re experiencing pain or stress, do reach out and call us directly at 250-897-0069 or BOOK ONLINE conveniently. If you wish, you can also use our easy CONTACT US page to request help with services or booking. We are here and ready to help you.


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