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What is Impingement?

What is Impingement?

Shoulder impingement, or impingement syndrome, is a condition caused by friction between the rotator cuff (a group of tendons and muscles that surround your shoulder) and the nearby bones. 

Because several bones meet in the shoulder (including the upper arm bones, the shoulder blade, and the collarbone), the shoulder area is more prone to friction. 

There are muscles and tendons that prevent friction between these bones and enable smooth movements. Shoulder impingement occurs when these tendons and muscles swell and push against bones or other tissues.

Symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain when making certain arm movements and pain that worsens at night. Left untreated, this constant friction can lead to more serious conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, or tendon tears. 

We asked our expert at Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, board-certified orthopedic specialist David Dickerson, MD, to explain how impingement occurs, what causes it, and how we treat it. 

When does impingement occur?

Shoulder impingement is often caused by overhead movements, such as those commonly made by swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players. 

Trimming trees or engaging in other activities that force you to stretch your arms for long periods of time can increase your risk of impingement by causing overuse in the shoulders. 

Shoulder impingement can also occur due to wear-and-tear associated with obesity. Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on your shoulders. 

Patients with bone spurs, often caused by osteoarthritis, can develop shoulder impingement, because the spurs may rub against the rotator cuff. 

Lastly, shoulder impingement can develop as a result of trauma, such as an injury from a fall. 

Preventing impingement 

One of the first steps to treating impingement is rest. When you have inflamed tendons, you should avoid repeating the same movements that caused the inflammation in the first place.

After the inflammation has subsided, train your muscles surrounding your shoulder to make them stronger. This helps prevent muscle imbalances that lead to some muscles being overused. 

You can further reduce inflammation in your body by reducing your consumption of refined sugar and processed foods. Cook your meals from scratch and consume enough protein so your muscles and tendons can recover. 

Treating impingement 

Depending on what’s causing your impingement and the severity of your symptoms, Dr. Dickerson may recommend anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, or physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be required. 

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain and don’t know what’s causing it, contact us to schedule an appointment. Dr. Dickerson specializes in the treatment of orthopedic and pediatric injuries, and he is more than happy to give you a diagnosis and discuss potential treatment plans with you.

We have offices in Toms River and Shrewsbury, New Jersey.

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