March 5, 2024

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is a common musculoskeletal condition that affects many individuals, especially those involved in activities requiring repetitive movement.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is a common musculoskeletal condition that affects many individuals, especially those involved in activities requiring repetitive shoulder movements. It occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or irritated as they pass through a narrow space within the shoulder joint. In this blog, we will explore the definition, signs and symptoms, treatment options, and the expected rehabilitation timeframe for shoulder impingement.


Shoulder impingement, also known as subacromial impingement syndrome, refers to the compression or impingement of the tendons of the rotator cuff and the subacromial bursa (a fluid-filled sac) between the humeral head and the acromion process of the scapula. This compression often leads to inflammation, pain, and limited shoulder mobility.

Signs and Symptoms
  1. Pain: The most common symptom of shoulder impingement is a deep, aching pain in the shoulder, which may worsen with overhead movements or activities that require reaching behind the back.
  2. Weakness: Individuals with shoulder impingement may experience weakness in the affected shoulder, making it difficult to perform certain tasks or lift objects.
  3. Limited Range of Motion: The range of motion of the shoulder may be restricted, especially during activities such as reaching, lifting, or throwing.
  4. Night Pain: Many individuals with shoulder impingement experience increased pain during sleep, particularly when lying on the affected shoulder.
Treatment Options
  1. Rest and Activity Modification: Initially, it is important to rest the affected shoulder and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Modifying the way you perform certain movements can help alleviate symptoms.
  2. Physiotherapy: A qualified physiotherapist can provide targeted exercises and stretches to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, improve shoulder stability, and restore range of motion. They may also use manual therapy techniques to alleviate pain and improve joint mobility.
  3. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication.
  4. Corticosteroid Injections: In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be recommended to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This is typically used in conjunction with physical therapy.
  5. Surgical Intervention: If conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be considered. This could involve removing or smoothing the acromion, repairing torn tendons, or releasing tight structures within the shoulder joint.
Rehabilitation Timeframe

The rehabilitation timeframe for shoulder impingement varies depending on the severity of the condition, the individual's overall health, and their adherence to the treatment plan. Generally, it can take several weeks to several months to recover fully. However, it is important to note that each person's recovery may differ.

  1. Initial Phase (Acute Stage): During this phase, the focus is on reducing pain and inflammation through rest, icing, and the use of NSAIDs if prescribed. Physical therapy may involve gentle range-of-motion exercises and gentle strengthening exercises for unaffected muscles.
  2. Intermediate Phase (Subacute Stage): Once pain and inflammation have subsided, the emphasis shifts towards regaining range of motion, strength, and stability. Physical therapy will incorporate more challenging exercises and progressive resistance training to target the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles.
  3. Final Phase (Chronic Stage): In the final phase, the goal is to restore full shoulder function and return to normal activities. Physical therapy will focus on functional exercises, sport-specific training (if applicable), and optimizing overall shoulder mechanics to prevent future injury.

Shoulder impingement is a common condition characterized by pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which may include rest, physiotherapy, medications, or surgery, can help individuals recover and regain full shoulder function. The duration of rehabilitation can vary, but with consistent adherence to the prescribed treatment plan, most individuals can expect significant improvement within several weeks to months.

If you suspect you may have shoulder impingement, contact us or book online for a consultation to get your shoulder moving freely again.