What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement occurs when the bone on top of the shoulder impinges (compresses) on the rotator cuff with overhead arm movement, causing pain and irritation.

What causes shoulder impingement?

Most patients with shoulder impingement don’t have any specific shoulder injury associated with the condition. 

Shoulder impingement is thought to involve compression (impingement) of the rotator cuff tendons against the bones, bone spurs and ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint. This may involve some degeneration (wear and tear) or partial tearing of the rotator cuff tendons themselves. It leads to pain and inflammation of the rotator cuff and bursitis over the rotator cuff.

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?

  • Pain that worsens with overhead activities of daily life, work or recreation
  • Pain located down one side of the shoulder
  • Pain that prevents or makes it difficult to lie on one shoulder or get a good night’s sleep

How is shoulder impingement diagnosed?

Diagnosing shoulder impingement begins with a physician gathering a detailed medical history and physical examination. 

X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are taken to confirm the diagnosis and identify any other associated injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear.

How is shoulder impingement treated?

Most people who have shoulder impingement don’t need surgery to relieve pain, improve motion, improve shoulder function and regain the functions of work, play and daily life. Nonsurgical treatment includes rest, ice, heat, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. Cortisone injections can sometimes provide additional pain relief.

If nonsurgical shoulder impingement treatments fail, surgeons at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center can perform minimally invasive arthroscopic repair using a camera and small incisions. This procedure involves removing inflamed bursa in the shoulder, removing bone spurs that contribute to impingement and evaluating the rotator cuff to make sure it doesn’t have a tear.

Why choose Ohio State for shoulder impingement treatment?

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center specializes in the most advanced treatment options available for shoulder impingement. 

We have a team of experts who work solely with the shoulder, including anesthesiologists, physical therapists, surgeons and other healthcare providers who are dedicated to treating shoulder issues with a focus on minimized risk and pain and fast recovery. Orthopedic experts at Ohio State also lead medical research to improve shoulder treatments and determine more specific causes for injuries. 

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