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  • Align Health Collective | Physiotherapy

Shoulder Impingement Brisbane

Updated: Oct 3

Are you suffering from shoulder pain that gets worse when you lift your arms overhead? Does your pain increase when you reach behind your back? Does your shoulder feel weak or stiff? If you answered “yes”, you could have a very painful condition called shoulder impingement syndrome.

Shoulder impingement is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as acute injury, overuse of the shoulder, and everyday wear and tear. You may have heard this condition referred to as “tennis shoulder” or “swimmer’s shoulder”.

Shoulder impingement can lead to other, very painful conditions, so you should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional as soon as possible. Align Health Collective in Brisbane, Queensland, offers a range of physiotherapy and non-surgical treatments for shoulder impingement to help reduce your pain, improve your shoulder function, and get you back to doing your everyday activities, pain free

In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and prevention tips for shoulder impingement syndrome, as well as the expertise and personalised services you will receive from our physiotherapy clinic in Indooroopilly.


Shoulder Impingement Brisbane

What is Shoulder Impingement and Why Does it Occur?

Shoulder impingement occurs when the soft tissues in the shoulder joint are compressed, resulting in pain and inflammation. The shoulder joint consists of multiple delicate components, including the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, ligaments, bursa (a cushioning, fluid-filled sac), the top of the biceps tendon, and bones such as the acromion and top of the scapula (shoulder blade).


So, if there isn’t enough space around these components, or if they are under extra stress, they will experience increased friction and the soft tissues may be pinched or compressed between the bones. This leads to a painful and inflamed shoulder or shoulder impingement. Additionally, repetitive use and previous shoulder injuries or trauma can aggravate the shoulder joint, leading to further pain and inflammation.


Various factors can cause and/or contribute to shoulder impingement. Let’s look at some of the common risk factors and causes of shoulder impingement.

  • Overuse or repetitive use: Many sports and jobs involve repetitive overhead arm movements, such as weightlifting, swimming, rugby, tennis, painting and packing shelves.

  • Shoulder injury or trauma: Any injury to the shoulder area can eventually lead to shoulder impingement.

  • Abnormal bone growth: Bone spurs (osteophytes) usually develop in older individuals, but can also form as a result of trauma or injury to the shoulder area.

  • Poor posture and aging: Over time, our shoulder joints experience normal wear and tear, while prolonged poor posture and degenerative diseases can also contribute to shoulder impingement.


Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement can feel like mild discomfort in the shoulder area or it can be excruciating. Let’s look at the most common symptoms associated with shoulder impingement.

  • Pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising in the shoulder area

  • Increased pain when raising your arms overhead, reaching behind your back, or lifting objects

  • Restricted or reduced range of motion

  • Loss of strength, weakness, or clicking/popping sensations in the affected shoulder.

Shoulder impingement can have incredibly painful side effects, such as torn tendons, a rotator cuff tear, shoulder bursitis (inflammation of the bursa), or rotator cuff tendonitis. So, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek help and advice from a qualified healthcare professional as soon as you can.


Shoulder Impingement Treatment Options

Diagnosis

Your physiotherapist will conduct a thorough physical exam of your shoulder, and may recommend diagnostic or imaging tests to further evaluate your shoulder impingement. Tests can include an ultrasound, X-ray, or MRI which will also help to eliminate other conditions that could be the cause of your shoulder pain (e.g., tendonitis, calcific deposits on the rotator cuff tendons, arthritis, subacromial bursitis, frozen shoulder). You may also be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon if your shoulder impingement is severe.


The severity of your shoulder impingement will determine the appropriate treatment plan. There are both non-surgical and surgical options available.


Non-Surgical Treatments

The first treatment for shoulder impingement is usually the non-surgical route. Below are some of the most common non-surgical options:

  • Physiotherapy to relieve pain and improve range of motion

  • Exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles

  • Manual therapy to relieve tight muscles and increase shoulder joint mobility

  • Ultrasound therapy to reduce inflammation and encourage healing

  • Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter or prescribed medications

  • Cortisone injections

  • Ice therapy and rest.


Arthroscopic Surgery

If non-surgical treatments do not provide pain relief, your physiotherapist may recommend arthroscopy. This is a minimally invasive procedure which involves making small incisions in the shoulder.


Then, using a camera and small instruments, your surgeon will remove any bone spurs, inflamed tissue, calcium deposits, or damaged tendons. Arthroscopic surgery is typically an outpatient procedure, while recovery is faster than open surgery.


Open Surgery

Open surgery may be required for severe shoulder impingement. Open surgery may be necessary if there is significant damage to the rotator cuff tendons, or if bone spurs are too large to be removed with arthroscopic surgery.


Open surgery involves making a larger incision in the shoulder and removing the damaged tissue or bone spurs. Recovery time for open surgery is typically longer than for arthroscopic surgery.


Physical Therapy to Reduce Pain and Improve Function

  • Rotator cuff strengthening exercises: Internal and external rotation exercises, scapular stabilisation exercises, and wall push-ups

  • Range of motion exercises: Shoulder circles, pendulum exercises, and shoulder stretches

  • Posture correction exercises: Chest stretches, shoulder blade squeezes, and chin tucks

  • Therapeutic ultrasound: This form of physical therapy uses high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation. This treatment is often used in conjunction with other physical therapy exercises to improve outcomes.


Prevention Techniques and At-Home Remedies for Managing Symptoms

While physical therapy exercises and other non-surgical treatments can help manage shoulder impingement symptoms, there are also several prevention techniques and at-home remedies that you can use to reduce pain and prevent future injury.

  • Rest and ice: Rest the affected shoulder and apply ice to reduce inflammation. Applying ice for 15–20 minutes every few hours can help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Improve posture: Poor posture places additional stress on the shoulder joint, so improving your posture can help reduce pain and prevent future injury. Try to keep your shoulders back and down, and avoid slouching or hunching forward.

  • Modify activities: Modify any activity that requires repetitive overhead arm movements, such as throwing sports or weightlifting. Taking frequent breaks can also help to reduce stress on the shoulder joint.

  • Strengthen shoulder muscles: Incorporate shoulder strengthening exercises into your daily routine, such as shoulder blade squeezes, wall push-ups, and rotator cuff strengthening exercises.

  • Anti-inflammatory diet: Add anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. You should also avoid food that aggravates inflammation, such as sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, and any items made with white flour.


Get in Touch

At Align Health Collective in Brisbane, QLD, we understand that living with shoulder impingement can be a painful and challenging experience, which is why we are dedicated to providing our patients with the highest level of care and support throughout the consultation and diagnosis process.

We offer a range of effective treatment options for shoulder impingement, including manual therapy, exercise therapy, and education on proper posture and movement techniques. We also offer advice on home remedies and prevention techniques to help you manage symptoms and prevent future injury.

All of our treatment plans are personalised and tailor-made for your individual requirements. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards healing.


FAQs

Which doctors treat shoulder impingement?

Doctors who specialise in sports medicine or orthopaedics are usually the best choice for diagnosing and treating shoulder impingement. It's important to find a doctor who has experience treating shoulder injuries and can develop a personalised treatment plan for you.


Can shoulder impingement be cured completely?

With the proper treatment, shoulder impingement can be fully resolved. However, the recovery time will vary depending on the severity of the injury and the individual's overall health. Follow your doctor or physiotherapist's treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome.


Is shoulder impingement surgery worth it?

Shoulder impingement can often be successfully treated with non-surgical methods such as physiotherapy. However, if non-surgical treatments are not effective or the impingement is severe, surgery may be recommended. The decision to undergo surgery should be made in consultation with your doctor or surgeon.


Can I lift weights with shoulder impingement?

It depends on the severity of your shoulder impingement and the specific exercises you want to do. Any exercises that involve overhead arm movements may need to be avoided, modified, or performed with lighter weights to prevent further injury. Consult your physiotherapist or doctor before beginning any weightlifting programme.


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