Sometimes called swimmer’s shoulder, shoulder impingement syndrome causes pain in the front and side of the joint when you move your arm through a throwing motion. Dr. Douglas Abeles of Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, diagnoses and treats shoulder impingement to restore pain-free range of motion. Call today or book an appointment online.
The tendons of the rotator cuff pass through a bony arch called the acromion. With repeated motion such as with throwing a ball or swimming, these tendons may rub against bone and other tissue, which can cause irritation and inflammation in the tendons. Over time, tendon tissue may thicken in reaction to this rubbing, or impingement, which further aggravates the problem because there’s already too little room for these tendons to move.
Impingement syndrome isn’t a standalone diagnosis, as many other conditions can create or aggravate tendon inflammation. Shoulder impingement also may be a precursor to a rotator cuff tear if it’s left untreated.
Because all movement of the arms involves the shoulders, impingement may be difficult to treat, as immobilizing your arms is impractical. The earliest stages of treatment typically use the RICE method:
Dr. Abeles typically prescribes anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen to counteract inflammation while providing pain relief. Therapies such as ultrasound and rehabilitative exercise also may be part of your treatment.
If these measures don’t produce results in 6-12 months, steroid injections may be used before Dr. Abeles considers surgical treatment.
The cause of the impingement dictates which surgical procedure can offer the best chance of success. In most cases, subacromial decompression surgery is the right option.
Because the space under the acromion is too small for the tendons, or, in some cases, may have bone spurs causing the irritation, Dr. Abeles typically uses arthroscopic and endoscopic techniques to enlarge the subacromial space, giving the tendons more room to move without irritation, medically called decompression.