Shoulder Impingement & Rotator Cuff Disorders

One of the most common physical complaints for adults and young athletes is shoulder pain. Our shoulders are composed of several different joints, tendons, and muscles that allow for a great range of motion in our arms. Our shoulder anatomy allows us to pitch a baseball, swim backstroke, and lift items over our heads. 

While our shoulder anatomy is of huge benefit to us, it is also vulnerable to many problems, especially rotator cuff disorders. At Mid-County Physical Therapy, we treat various rotator cuff disorders, such as shoulder impingement, and help our patients find relief. If you are suffering from shoulder pain, you can learn more about the causes and treatment options here. 

Rotator Cuff Shoulder Pain 

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles located within the shoulder. The shoulder also has three bones: the humerus, the scapula, and the clavicle. The rotator cuff is what keeps your arm in your shoulder socket. The bursa is the lubricating sac situated between the rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder (acromion). Damage or irritation to any of these can lead to shoulder pain and issues. 

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it could be one of several rotator cuff disorders. Rotator cuff disorders occur when the tissues in the shoulder become damaged or irritated. 

Rotator Cuff Disorders: 

  • Tendinitis: inflammation of the tendons
  • Bursitis: inflammation of a bursa 
  • Calcific tendinitis: calcium buildup in the tendons 
  • Partial or complete rotator cuff tear
  • Impingement: tendon rubbing against bone 

Most rotator cuff injuries occur due to a combination of normal wear and tear and overuse. As we age, everyday activities can change the rotator cuff, possibly leading to damage. Sports or other activities that require using your arms above your head also increase your risk of rotator cuff shoulder pain and injury. 

Speak with a physical therapist to determine whether you have a rotator cuff disorder and how to best treat it.

Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms

Man running on the beach, wincing in pain and grabbing shoulder

Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury can vary depending on the person and the extent of the injury. Some general symptoms to look out for include

  • Deep, aching pain in the shoulder 
  • Pain that prevents you from sleeping on the injured side
  • Difficulty combing hair or reaching behind your back
  • Arm and shoulder weakness
  • Grating/crackling sound when moving arm 

Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment 

Treating rotator cuff shoulder pain will depend on the severity of the symptoms, as well as the patient’s age and health. Treatment options may include

  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injection
  • Dry needling
  • Surgery for severe cases 

What is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome? 

Shoulder impingement syndrome, also known as swimmer’s syndrome, is a type of rotator cuff disorder where the shoulder blade pinches (impinges on) the rotator cuff. This pinching causes pain, irritation, and swelling in the shoulder. Due to the surrounding bone in your shoulder, the swelling reduces the amount of space around the rotator cuff, which leads to rubbing. That rubbing of the rotator cuff then leads to more swelling, creating a vicious and painful cycle.

Man swimming butterfly stroke in a pool

Playing sports that require using your shoulders for overhead or forceful motion, such as swimming, tennis, and baseball, is the most significant risk 

factor for developing shoulder impingement syndrome. Occupations that require heavy lifting/arm movement also increase the risk, such as construction workers, movers, and house painters.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Symptoms:

  • Minor but constant pain in the arm 
  • Pain that goes from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm
  • Pain that worsens when lifting your arm 
  • Pain gets worse at night or when resting
  • Shoulder or arm weakness 

Shoulder Impingement Treatment 

Treatments for shoulder impingement syndrome include the following: 

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections
  • Surgery. 

Shoulder impingement can take several months to heal completely. After some rest and physical therapy, though, most fully recover within a few months (3-6). 

If left untreated, impingement can lead to more severe issues, such as a rotator cuff tear. Physical therapists can help to decrease shoulder pain and improve and improve the range of motion and strength in your compromised shoulder. 

Contact Mid-County Physical Therapy for Shoulder Impingement & Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment

Whether you are experiencing shoulder impingement syndrome or another type of rotator cuff shoulder pain, it is best to speak with a trained physical therapist early on to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

Let our team of trained professionals help you get back in the game. 

Our physical therapists will help ensure that you are getting the proper treatment so the healing process can occur. 

Call Mid-County Physical Therapy at (703) 763-3922 to schedule an appointment today.


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