Impingement syndrome, also called swimmer’s shoulder or subacromial impingement, is a common condition. It occurs when the muscles and tendons that lift the arm are injured or strained. Impingement syndrome is common to athletes who play sports that require a lot of throwing, overhead activity and swimming (as its other name suggests).
When you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the shoulder blade bone and tendons narrows. The bone can rub against (or impinge on) the tendons, causing pain.
Although a sudden injury can cause impingement syndrome, it usually results from repetitive movements over time – like a swimmer repeating the same stroke. The good news is that most people are able to heal from impingement syndrome in a matter of months.
Our orthopedists and primary care doctors will quickly diagnose your shoulder pain to determine if you have impingement syndrome, or if another condition is causing your pain. We’ll then recommend treatment options based on your health, goals and lifestyle.
Here's what makes our approach unique:
Shoulder pain can disturb sleep patterns and limit your ability to exercise or function at work. If your shoulder pain begins to disrupt your regular activities, you may want to consult a doctor.
Impingement syndrome pain often comes on gradually and develops at the front and along the side of the shoulder joint. In some cases, the pain is noticeable only during movements such as throwing a ball, swimming, reaching up or playing tennis.
See your doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms:
Impingement syndrome can occur in athletes, active people and older adults. Its presence can also indicate a number of different-but-related problems, including:
Eventually, impingement syndrome can lead to other injuries, so it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and care plan.
Your Aurora doctor will begin with a physical examination and ask about your medical history, including any past injuries you've had. You may need to have X-rays if the doctor suspects a fracture or arthritis. If your symptoms are more serious, your doctor may perform an MRI to rule out a rotator cuff tear.
If your doctor suspects impingement syndrome, they may inject a small amount of an anesthetic and/or a corticosteroid into the space under the shoulder bone. If the anesthetic relieves the pain, the diagnosis is impingement syndrome.
Most forms of treatment involve reducing pain and inflammation, recovering strength and returning to activity. Some treatment options include:
If your doctor identifies a more serious injury, you may need surgery. Learn more about shoulder surgery at Aurora.
You may be more likely to experience impingement syndrome if you are an athlete who does repetitive movements, including:
Others who are likely to experience this condition include: