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Orthopedic Surgery

Also known as impingement syndrome or swimmer’s shoulder, shoulder impingement is a condition that results from continuous rubbing of the rotator between one’s humerus and the top outer edge of the shoulder. This rubbing results in swelling and further narrowing of the space, which eventually leads to pain and irritation. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, cortisone injections, and surgery are the treatment options for shoulder impingement.

Who is at risk of shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement is more common among people who participate in sports and activities that require a lot of overhead rotational motion, such as swimming, baseball, and tennis, as well as tasks like painting.

The condition can also be caused by injuries such as falls onto an extended arm or directly onto the shoulder.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

  • Pain and tenderness in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain when lying on the affected side
  • Pain when the arms are extended above the head
  • Pain when lifting the arm, lowering the arm from a raised position, or when reaching
  • Achiness that causes discomfort, especially at night
  • Pain that moves from the front of one’s shoulder to the side of the arm
  • One might experience pain when reaching behind his/her back, for instance reaching into a back pocket

Diagnosis of Shoulder Impingement

  • During diagnosis, the doctor will inquire about the patient’s previous injuries if any as well as his/her exercising habits.
  • The patient will also be asked to do a series of motions using his/her shoulder while the doctor checks for any unusual movement. With this, the doctor can also diagnose other conditions such as pinched nerve.
  • The doctor may order an x-ray to rule out arthritis and check for bone changes, such as a spur that could result in impingement.
  • An MRI scan may be recommended to get a better look at the patient’s shoulder if the doctor feels that the patient has a more serious rotator cuff injury or if still unsure of the diagnosis.

Treatment of Shoulder Impingement

Depending on the severity of the condition, there are a variety of shoulder impingement treatments that will be recommended. The most common include:

Home care: Doctors highly recommend rest as it is the most important strategy when it comes to treating shoulder impingement. The patient should avoid strenuous activities that may worsen the pain especially for patients who are athletes.

Physical therapy: Physical therapy entails using gentle exercises to build strength and range of motion. Physical therapy sessions focus on the muscles in the patient’s shoulder, arm, and chest. This will help improve the function of the rotator cuff.

Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling and relieve shoulder pain.

Surgery: Surgical intervention becomes necessary when other treatments don’t respond well. Surgery will be used to widen the space around the patient’s rotator cuff. As a result, it can move freely without rubbing on the patient’s bone.

Recovery After Shoulder Impingement Treatment

It approximately takes three to six months for a shoulder impingement to fully recover. For more severe cases, recovery can take up to a year. However, it normally takes two to four weeks before one may resume regular activities.

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