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Shoulder Impingement

What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement occurs when the space between the acromion (a bony projection of the scapula) and the rotator cuff tendons narrows, leading to compression and irritation of the tendons. This condition can result in pain, limited range of motion, and difficulty performing daily activities.

What are the causes of shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons or bursa become pinched or compressed in the shoulder joint, leading to pain and inflammation. Several factors contribute to this condition, including:

  • Overuse or Repetitive Movements: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as painting, swimming, or throwing, can lead to wear and tear on the rotator cuff tendons, increasing the risk of impingement.
  • Poor Posture: Maintaining poor posture, such as rounded shoulders or forward head position, can alter the biomechanics of the shoulder joint, leading to impingement over time.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Weakness or imbalance in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, including the rotator cuff muscles and scapular stabilizers, can result in altered mechanics and increased stress on certain structures, predisposing them to impingement.
  • Anatomical Factors: Structural abnormalities such as bone spurs, acromial shape variations, or anatomical variations in the shape or size of the acromion can contribute to impingement by narrowing the space within the shoulder joint.
  • Trauma or Injury: Acute trauma or injury to the shoulder, such as a fall or direct blow, can lead to inflammation and swelling in the shoulder joint, increasing the likelihood of impingement symptoms.
  • Age and Degenerative Changes: As individuals age, degenerative changes such as tendon degeneration or joint arthritis can occur, further compromising the integrity of the shoulder joint and increasing the risk of impingement

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?

  • Pain in the shoulder, especially when reaching overhead or lifting objects.
  • Weakness or loss of strength in the affected shoulder.
  • Difficulty reaching behind the back or across the body.
  • Shoulder stiffness, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity.
  • Clicking or popping sensations during shoulder movement.

How is shoulder impingement diagnosed?

During your visit, Dr. Shane J. Nho will perform a thorough physical examination, evaluating your shoulder’s ability to move in various directions and noting any limitations or pain during specific movements. X-rays will be ordered to assess for bony abnormalities contributing to impingement. MRI can help to visualize soft tissue structures, including the rotator cuff. These tests help assess the extent of tissue damage and rule out other potential causes of shoulder pain.

At a Glance

Dr. Shane Nho

  • Board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon
  • Team Physician for Chicago Bulls, White Sox, Steel
  • Performs more than 700 procedures each year
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