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Shoulder Impingement Treatment Options

What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common condition characterized by compression or pinching of the tendons and bursa in the shoulder joint, particularly when the arm is raised overhead or moved away from the body. This impingement occurs primarily beneath the acromion, a bony prominence of the scapula (shoulder blade), and can lead to inflammation, pain, and restricted movement. Shoulder impingement can result from various factors, including anatomical abnormalities, repetitive overhead activities, muscle imbalances, or degenerative changes in the shoulder joint. Symptoms of shoulder impingement typically include pain, particularly with overhead movements or reaching behind the back, weakness, and stiffness in the shoulder joint. Diagnosis is usually made through a combination of physical examination, imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI, and possibly diagnostic injections.

How is shoulder impingement treated?

Treatment for shoulder impingement focuses on addressing the underlying causes, relieving symptoms, and restoring optimal function to the shoulder joint. The chosen treatment plan depends on factors such as the severity of impingement, patient’s activity level, overall health, and specific characteristics of the condition. 

What non-operative options are available?

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that worsen symptoms and resting the affected shoulder.
  • Physical Therapy: Specific exercises to improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and posture.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications: Over the counter or prescription medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the shoulder joint to relieve pain and inflammation.

What operative options are available?

If conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical intervention may be recommended. Common surgical procedures for shoulder impingement include:

  • Arthroscopic Decompression: Minimally invasive surgery to remove any bone spurs or inflamed tissue causing impingement.
  • Rotator Cuff Repair: If the rotator cuff tendons are torn or severely damaged, surgery may be necessary to repair them.
  • Acromioplasty: Reshaping of the acromion to increase the space around the rotator cuff tendons and reduce impingement.

What does rehabilitation look like?

Following surgery, rehabilitation plays a crucial role in restoring shoulder function and preventing recurrence. Dr. Shane J. Nho and your physical therapist will develop a personalized rehabilitation program tailored to your specific needs. This program may include:

  • Gentle Range of Motion Exercises: Gradual introduction of shoulder movements to prevent stiffness.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Progressive exercises to rebuild shoulder strength and endurance.
  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques to improve joint mobility and tissue flexibility.
  • Activity Modification: Guidance on safe techniques and posture to prevent re-injury.
  • Gradual Return to Activities: Gradually reintroducing activities and sports once cleared by your medical team.

In conclusion, shoulder impingement can significantly impact your quality of life, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, most individuals can experience significant improvement in symptoms. Whether through conservative measures or surgical intervention, the goal is to restore pain-free shoulder function and help you return to your daily activities and hobbies. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or stiffness, don’t hesitate to seek evaluation and treatment.

Dr. Shane J. Nho is a board-certified fellowship trained sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of shoulder impingement. If you believe you are affected by shoulder impingement, schedule a consultation today with our experienced orthopaedic care team.

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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