Shoulder Impingement Syndrome


May 4, 2016

Shoulder impingement is a broad term used to describe the sensation of pinching and/or pain when lifting the arm overhead or across the body.  The symptoms are usually felt as the arm reaches shoulder height, and can get better or worse as you continue to lift. You may also hear or feel a clicking or catching in the shoulder as you reach overhead. There are multiple forms of shoulder impingement, but the most common cause is from two bones (the humeral head and the acromion), coming together and pinching soft tissue structures in the shoulder.

There are two forms of impingement, primary and secondary impingement. 

Primary impingement is caused by the differences in anatomy within our bodies-mostly referring to the shape of the acromion.  There are four different shapes of the acromion: type 1-flat, type 2-curved, type 3- hooked, type 4-convex. Type 3-the hooked acromion is the most commonly associated shape with shoulder impingement. Primary impingement can be helped with the appropriate exercises and activity modification, however we will not change the shape of the bony structures.

Secondary impingement is more common and is caused from poor posture, tight muscles, weak muscles, poor mechanics in the shoulder, and/or our daily activities that require repetitive use of the arm.  Secondary impingement is treated very successfully in physical therapy by addressing the impairments found during our examination process, and by prescribing the appropriate interventions.  

If you have impingement symptoms, consult with your PCP or local physical therapist.  Allowing these symptoms to linger, can lead to arthritis and/or damage to the rotator cuff.  If you have any questions regarding your symptoms, please feel free to call our office to speak with our highly trained physical therapist.