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Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is very common and is most often triggered by repetitive overhead activities, especially in athletic individuals. This painful condition is also known as rotator cuff tendinitis.

What causes it?

Young athletes who use their arms overhead (swimming, baseball, tennis) are particularly susceptible to shoulder impingement, as well as construction workers and painters, whose livelihood depends on the repetition of overhead movements. Sometimes symptoms develop with no apparent cause.

How do you know you have it?

The typical signs of shoulder impingement are:

  • Pain and stiffness when lifting the arm
  • Swelling and tenderness in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain when the arm is lowered from an elevated position
  • Minor pain, both with activity and at rest
  • Pain from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm
  • Sudden pain with lifting or reaching movements
  • Pain at night
  • Range of motion limitations

How we fix it

The upper extremity experts at OSI are here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of shoulder impingement. While under our expert care, you may undergo the following:

  • Physical exam: Your OSI physician will talk to you about your medical history and the symptoms you have been experiencing. The doctor will then carefully examine your shoulder, testing for range of motion and arm strength. Your doctor may also check the neck for a pinched nerve, which can present similar symptoms.
  • X-rays: X-rays may show the development of a bone spur.
  • MRI: An MRI can reveal fluid or inflammation in the rotator cuff.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Most often the initial treatments for shoulder impingement are nonsurgical:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

Surgical Treatment

A surgical approach can be considered if pain persists despite the use of conservative techniques. Surgery to repair shoulder impingement can be minimally invasive arthroscopy or an open surgery, which provides the surgeon more direct access to the rotator cuff.

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