Shoulder impingement syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome is caused by impinged rotator cuff tendons as they move through the shoulder joint. This can occur after sustaining a partial rupture of a rotator cuff tendon or manifest in a gradual manner due to overuse.

Due to repeated pinching, the tendons become aggravated and tender. This leads to the stiffening of the tendon that results to further issues due to the limited space. As the tendons enlarge, they are further crushed by the shoulder structures and the muscles themselves.

Shoulder impingement syndrome

Pain or discomfort at the front and side of the shoulder joint particularly when performing overhead movements such as throwing or in swimming and racket sports.

In most cases, the supraspinatus muscle is typically involved in shoulder impingement syndrome. The condition can be categorized as external or internal which is contingent on the cause. When it comes to the external type, it is separated into primary that is due to a bone spur or other direct cause and secondary which arises from poor stabilization of the joint.

What are the indications of shoulder impingement syndrome?

  • Pain that gradually worsens over time
  • Pain or discomfort at the front and side of the shoulder joint particularly when performing overhead movements such as throwing or in swimming and racket sports
  • Shoulder pain if the arm is held out to the side and turned outwards
  • An arc from around 70-130 degrees is evident when the arm is lifted out sideways and above the shoulder


The treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome is aimed on minimizing the pain and inflammation, improving mobility and strength while pinpointing and dealing with the possible causes to prevent recurrence.

PRICE method is used as part of treatment which involves resting the shoulder from any painful movements or activities. Remember that pain indicates intensifying inflammation and delay in the healing process. Apply an ice pack and compression wrap on the sore area for 10-15 minutes every hour.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can be given to reduce the pain and inflammation. In some cases, electrotherapy such as ultrasound can be used to minimize the pain and inflammation.

Specific tests are used to confirm a diagnosis including an X-ray to determine the cause of shoulder impingement syndrome. In some instances, direct injection of steroids into the subacromial space might be considered to minimize the inflammation. Additionally, it is important to rest for at least 6-12 months.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on shoulder impingement syndrome is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage joint conditions including impingement syndrome of the shoulder, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.


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