What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement is a painful condition that develops due to friction of the rotator cuff against the humerus and the outer rim of the shoulder. The constant rubbing of the rotator cuff can lead to inflammation, pain and swelling.

What is the primary cause of shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement develops when the upper, outer part of the shoulder (acromion) painfully pinches the rotator cuff underneath it. An irritated rotator cuff begins to swell, similar to any part of the body that becomes inflamed. Due to inflammation and swelling, space beneath the acromion begins to constrict. As a result, increased pressure is applied on the acromion.

Bone spurs on the acromion bone can also cause shoulder impingement due to the confined space where the rotator cuff rests. Shoulder impingement is common among athletes and those who participate in activities involving overhead rotational movements, such as tennis, baseball, volleyball and swimming.

How does Dr van Niekerk check for shoulder impingement?

Dr van Niekerk will first inquire about your medical history and carry out a physical exam to determine the cause of pain and joint tenderness. In addition, he may decide to order additional diagnostic tests such as:

  • X-ray imaging determines whether you have arthritis and reveals a rotator cuff The formation of bone spurs or a difference in the anatomical appearance of the margin of the bone, a point where the rotator cuff joins, could cause shoulder impingement.
  • MRI scan reveals a torn rotator cuff tendon or inflamed bursae.

How do you treat shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement treatment aims to reduce shoulder pain and increase mobility and flexibility of the shoulder. Conservative treatment measures include anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections.

Suppose shoulder pain from impingement does not dissipate. In that case, Dr van Niekerk will decide to perform arthroscopic shoulder decompression. Keyhole surgery involves taking out a part of the acromion to make room for the rotator cuff. In order to perform this surgery, Dr van Niekerk creates tiny incisions over the shoulder to reach the operative site. Other shoulder conditions may need to be treated as well, such as a rotator cuff tear, shoulder arthritis and inflammation of the biceps tendon.


Can shoulder exercises help with shoulder impingement?

Shoulder exercises are a form of rehabilitation after the surgical or conservative treatment of shoulder impingement. Shoulder exercises improve the posture of your shoulder and strengthen the shoulder’s muscles.

What does shoulder impingement feel like?

The first sign of shoulder impingement is pain when you lift your arm or reach for something behind you. Generally, the pain radiates from the shoulder or the upper arm.

Will an impinging shoulder improve?

Pain from shoulder impingement can improve within weeks or months, depending on the severity of the condition and the type of treatment provided.