Shoulder impingement symptoms usually present as pain with certain movements especially above shoulders. For example, getting attention from that Uber driver who can’t find you. It can progress and cause pain even at rest.

Impingement of the shoulder, also known as rotator cuff impingement occurs when tendons of the rotator cuff get irritated and inflamed as they pass under a part of the shoulder blade called the acromion. It can be a nagging injury that affects daily life. The pain is typically located on the top or front of the shoulder. Shoulder impingement can be sharp with movements and achy at rest or after aggravation. So let’s learn more about shoulder impingement, so you can suffer less from it.

There are three typical causes of shoulder impingement which are listed below:

Improper Mechanics
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This means the ability to move the shoulder complex, including the shoulder blade on the rib cage and upper arm on the shoulder blade. A common fault seen is the winging of the shoulder blade, as this inherently creates instability in the shoulder complex. Developing strength and stability in the shoulder throughout all ranges of motion is a great shoulder impingement treatment approach. This is done to improve the mechanics of the shoulder complex and take stress off of the rotator cuff.

Poor Postural Habits
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Poor postural habits can also contribute to this in two ways.
1. The positions you spend majority of your day in can create tension imbalances around the shoulder, such as the pec muscles having increased tension. This is when one spends most of their day with their shoulders slumped forward. This on it’s own may not cause any issues but it’s the transferring of these habits into movement.
2. The other way that posture can contribute is the transferring over to movements even with the absence of tension imbalances. An example of this is having the habit of those shoulders being rounded forward and this habit being maintained in a shoulder press.

Those movements may also be repetitive ones which require reaching up for daily tasks, such as getting dressed, grabbing your favourite cold-pressed juice, waving to a friend, and many other tasks.
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Developing postural awareness and having posture variance is the key to avoid rotator cuff impingement symptoms. It will help correct the imbalances and create better subconscious positioning of the shoulder for various movements.

Poor Movement Coordination

Poor movement coordination ties into the other two causes as inability to control the shoulder through various movements can stress the rotator cuff disproportionately. Often time people will come to rely on large muscles such as the upper traps to do the majority of the movement as opposed to just contributing. Things that must be addressed with this are the movement patterns, stability and mobility of the joints involved and building a program that complements and improves those issues.

Once irritation of the tendons begins to occur there is possibility of it developing into a rotator cuff tear or a significant tendinopathy (tendonitis). Often, prolonged shoulder issues with compensations can begin to affect the neck as many muscles cross both regions. This neck pain will then compound the shoulder issues as the neck and shoulder have some dependence on each other from a functional aspect. Resolving shoulder impingement can be a matter of simply improving the above mentioned issues, so don’t let it continue to hamper your day to day.

About the author

Dr. Alex Hawkins is a Chiropractor who is devoted to getting people moving better, and living healthier. He has a wealth of experience as a personal trainer, and as an athletic therapist at sporting events. He specializes in treating runners, as well as hockey and soccer players. Alex loves the challenge of solving complex cases. He believes empowering clients to take an active role in their care is the key to improving any injury.