May 26, 2024

Impingement Syndrome Insights: Understanding Shoulder Pain

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain that occurs when soft tissues around the shoulder joint get pinched or squeezed. This pinching causes inflammation and irritation that leads to pain. Impingement syndrome can develop gradually over time from repetitive shoulder motions or sudden trauma. In this article, we will explore impingement syndrome in more detail including causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

What is Impingement Syndrome?

Impingement syndrome, also known as subacromial impingement syndrome, occurs when the rotator cuff tendons and bursa located underneath the acromion process get compressed or impinged as the arm is raised overhead. The space available for the rotator cuff tendons and bursa to pass through is only about 1 cm. Any swelling or inflammation can further narrow this space and cause the structures to get pinched. Activities involving repetitive overhead motions are a common cause of impingement syndrome over time.

Causes of Impingement Syndrome

Some of the most common causes of impingement syndrome include:

– Repetitive overhead activities: Jobs or sports that involve continuous overhead motions like tennis, swimming, volleyball etc. can lead to impingement over time.

– Injuries: A sudden injury from a fall on an outstretched arm or direct blow to the shoulder can cause impingement.

– Calcium deposits: Also known as calcific tendinitis, calcium deposits develop within the tendons and further narrow the subacromial space.

– Posture issues: Poor posture with rounded shoulders shifts the head of the humerus bone higher increasing risk of impingement.

– Age-related changes: As we age, the acromion process gets worn out which reduces the subacromial space making older individuals more prone to impingement.

Symptoms of Impingement Syndrome

The main symptoms of impingement syndrome include:

– Shoulder pain that worsens with overhead activities or lying on the affected shoulder. The pain is felt on the front, side or upper arm region.

– Loss of strength and limitation of shoulder range of motion especially overhead.

– Cracking or catching sensation felt in the shoulder with certain movements.

– Swelling or inflammation seen over the front of the shoulder joint.

– Sleep disturbances caused by inability to sleep on the painful shoulder.

The symptoms typically start gradually and progressively worsen with time and repeated shoulder motions if left untreated. Elderly individuals may experience symptoms even at lower shoulder heights.

Diagnosing Impingement Syndrome

A doctor will first take a thorough medical history and conduct a physical examination of the shoulder joint to check for potential causes of pain. Range of motion tests, strength tests and specialized shoulder impingement tests aim to reproduce the pain.

Imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasound or MRI help rule out other conditions and confirm impingement syndrome diagnosis. X-rays are often normal initially but may show signs of arthritis or bone spurs in longstanding cases. Ultrasounds and MRIs clearly visualize any inflamed or damaged soft tissues like tendons, bursae or muscles.

Treatment Options for Impingement Syndrome

Conservative treatments are tried initially in most cases of impingement syndrome:

– Resting the shoulder and avoiding painful motions. Modify activities as needed.

– Icing to reduce pain and inflammation. Heat may help later for relaxation.

– Oral anti-inflammatory medications reduce pain and swelling.

– Physiotherapy focuses on strengthening rotator cuff muscles, improving posture and flexibility.

– Corticosteroid injections directly into the joint help reduce inflammation in acute flares.

– Shockwave therapy uses high-energy shockwaves to stimulate healing of calcium deposits.

Surgery to shave and smooth out bone spurs is considered if above treatments fail after 3-6 months. In rare complicated cases, a portion of the acromion process may need to be surgically removed. Overall success rates for both surgical and non-surgical treatments are high with full recovery in 6-9 months.


In summary, impingement syndrome is a common yet painful cause of shoulder issues. Understanding causes, symptoms and management options enables timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. With conservative measures and/or surgery, full recovery is very possible in most impingement cases. Following post-treatment guidelines helps prevent recurrences of this overuse injury.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it