What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement is a condition that causes pain in the shoulder. It happens when a tendon or bursa in the shoulder gets squeezed between the bones that make up the shoulder. A tendon is a strong band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that sits near a bone. People can get shoulder impingement if they do a lot of work or a sport that involves stretching or lifting the arms overhead. Shoulder impingement can lead to other problems, such as bursitis, which is when a bursa gets irritated or swollen.

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?

Most people have pain in the front of the shoulder. The pain is usually worse with lifting and reaching movements.

Will I need tests?

You might. This might be in the form of a simple X-ray of your shoulder.

How is shoulder impingement treated?

In most cases, the condition will get better on its own, but it can take weeks to months. To help your shoulder get better, you can:
  • Rest your shoulder — Avoid reaching overhead or across your chest, lifting, leaning on your elbows, or lying on your shoulder.
  • Ice your shoulder — Put a cold gel pack, bag of ice, or bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area every 1 to 2 hours, for 15 minutes each time. Put a thin towel between the ice (or other cold object) and your skin.
  • Take a pain-relieving medicine — Simple pain-killers such as paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Naproxen can be taken but it is recommended that you seek the advice of your family doctor before taking any medications. Some tears, especially large tears, might need to be treated with surgery.

What if my symptoms don’t get better?

If your symptoms don’t get better, it may be time to consult with
  • A pain specialist for non-surgical interventional options such as a steroid injection for bursitis
  • An orthopedic surgeon for surgical or arthroscopic options