Shoulder pain is something to take seriously no matter how it occurs. Shoulder impingement is a compression syndrome that may occur for some reasons, so, even if the pain does not follow an injury, there may be a reason to obtain a medical evaluation. Here, we take a closer look at this condition, how to recognize signs, and what may be done to correct the issue.
The shoulder is a rather complex structure made up of several moving parts. There are three bones in the shoulder, and muscles and tendons that make up the rotator cuff. These tissues are vital to the stability of the shoulder within its socket.
There is a small bony structure in the shoulder joint called the acromion. When the arms are raised overhead, it rubs up against tendons in the rotator cuff. For the average person who raises her arms overhead occasionally, this rubbing presents no problem. It is in instances of repeated arm-lifting (think swimmers and tennis players) that may result in irritation within the shoulder structure.
Recognizing “Swimmers Shoulder”
You need not be a swimmer to suffer the repetition injury mentioned above. Painters and others who frequently reach overhead are also susceptible to shoulder inflammation. When shoulder impingement occurs, difficulty reaching overhead may become uncomfortable. Reaching to one side or behind the back may also be a challenge due to stiffness and pain. The affected shoulder may feel weak or unstable and may experience pain if you sleep on that side.
If symptoms of shoulder impingement occur, the first course of action may be to rest the joint. Eliminate the reaching that brings about pain. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may also be taken for a short time. If these steps do not decrease discomfort, a formal examination should be performed.
Your orthopedic surgeon can diagnose the source of shoulder pain through comprehensive examination that includes assessment of a range of motion. X-rays may also be taken to observe the inner-workings of the shoulder joint. Once we have determined the source of shoulder pain, we can develop an appropriate treatment protocol.
Patients often feel concerned that surgery is the only choice to treat shoulder pain. This is not the case. We often begin treatment in a non-surgical manner, relying on rest and physical therapy or anti-inflammatory injections to facilitate a natural healing process.