Shoulder impingement syndrome

Host: What is shoulder impingement syndrome?

Louis-Simon: Shoulder impingement syndrome is characterized by a pinching of either a tendon along the rotator cuff (which stabilizes the shoulder) or the biceps tendon, which is more toward the front. This pinching is a pain above the shoulder that occurs when you raise your arm to a 90-degree angle. When you raise your arm higher, the pain disappears. There is no inflammation or redness; it is really characterized by local pain.

It is often caused by repetitive movements, as we discussed in our last segment on workplace ergonomics. Having poor posture and performing repetitive movements throughout the day can pinch the tendons in the shoulders, especially if they are rolled forward. A rounded back and poor positioning of the arm that uses your mouse can also cause pinching of the tendons.

 What can we do to fix this problem or to simply avoid it?

Louis-Simon: The first, very important thing to do if you have this problem is to come see a physical therapist. It may seem harmless at first because it’s not a very acute pain, but it can become a problem over time if you don’t treat it. You want to avoid tendinitis and calcification of the tendons in the shoulder. This makes it important to see a professional because the condition can cause degeneration of the tendons, which then becomes a much more serious issue that takes longer to heal.

As for effective physical therapy treatments for this problem, we will begin by retraining you to have proper posture if we see anything that needs adjusting, otherwise the problem will be recurrent. There is a lot of muscle work to do. As I said earlier, this affects the tendons in the rotator cuff, which stabilize the ball of the shoulder. This area needs to be strengthened so the shoulder can be repositioned in the right place. The same thing goes for the muscles that stabilize the shoulder blades; they need to be strengthened to correct your posture. The shoulder blades have a major influence on the position of the shoulder, so we want to stabilize this spot. When it comes to manual therapy, we can do a lot of sliding to reposition the shoulder and prevent pinching to give the tendon a chance to heal. There are also other treatment approaches, like ultrasound to decrease inflammation and taping to reposition the shoulders.

Host: Is taping a way to immobilize the shoulder?

Louis-Simon: No, we’re not talking about stability taping that would be used on someone who dislocates their shoulder, for example. This is  neuro-proprioceptive taping, which means the bandage will stimulate and activate the muscles to correct the person’s posture. That is more indicative of how we’ll use it. You will be able to move, and in fact you MUST move it. But you have to do it the right way.

In sum, it is important not to let this kind of injury go unattended. As soon as you have shoulder pain that presents as a pinching sensation when you raise your arm, that should be a warning not to let it turn into tendinitis. See a physical therapist who can evaluate you and treat you accordingly.

For more information, visit our website to see an exercise related to what we’ve just talked about. But if you feel pain when doing these exercises, stop immediately and come see us so we can evaluate you.