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Shoulder Impingement Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

Your shoulders get a lot of use on a daily basis. From picking something up off of a shelf, to throwing a ball- your shoulders may be at use more than you think. Undergoing any pain in this area would cause a great deal of inconvenience in your daily life. One of the most common types of shoulder pain is shoulder impingement, also known as impingement syndrome or swimmer’s shoulder. This is commonly seen in athletes and people who perform overhead activities on a daily basis. Today, we’re going to go into further detail on the causes, signs, and symptoms of shoulder impingement.

Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

At JIS Orthopedics, we’ve found that shoulder impingement results from the overuse of the tendons in your shoulder, causing them to swell and “catch” on your upper shoulder bone.

Typically, individuals who overuse their shoulders are those who participate in overhead activities on a repeating basis. Overhead activities include: painting, lifting, swimming, tennis, baseball, volleyball, and more.

The main symptoms that individuals experience are difficulty to reach behind the back and a sudden pain in your shoulder when you lift your arm over your head. Other symptoms include:

  • Weakness in arm or shoulder
  • Minor, but constant pain in your arm
  • Pain traveling from the front of your shoulder to the side of your arm
  • Pain that gets worse at night

If this condition goes untreated for a long period of time, the tendon can actually tear in two, causing a rotator cuff tear. This will result in far more weakness and less motion of your arm and shoulder.

Shoulder Impingement Treatment

There are a variety of methods used for treating shoulder impingement, all of which vary based on the severity of your condition. Physical therapy, medication, and surgery are the typical treatment methods used. All in all, it’s most important to make sure that you are well-rested and avoid any strenuous activities or exercise throughout the process.

shoulder impingement

Physical Therapy

This condition usually responds well to physical therapy. During this therapy, you will focus on your shoulder, arm, and chest, slowly working to rebuild your strength and range of motion. Your doctor may even give you exercises to do at home in order to help you recover faster. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.


Quite often, patients are given anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce swelling and pain. If these medications don’t reduce your symptoms, then your doctor may prescribe steroid injections as a stronger alternative.


If the treatment methods mentioned earlier don’t seem to be working, then you may need to undergo a surgery to widen the space around your rotator cuff. This will allow for more range of motion without catching or rubbing against your upper shoulder bone. Typically, this can be done with an arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive form of surgery.

More severe cases may require a traditional open surgery. In rare occurrences, a prolonged shoulder impingement can lead to a torn rotator cuff, which also results in an open surgery. Following your surgery, it is likely that you will need to wear an arm sling for a brief period. Your orthopedic surgeon will determine when the time is right to remove the sling.

Shoulder Impingement Recovery/Healing

At JIS Orthopedics, we find that shoulder impingement typically takes about three to six months to fully heal. After about two to four weeks, patients are typically able to return to their normal activities.

Note: Make sure you regularly check up with your doctor to make sure you aren’t overdoing it. Overuse during recovery can result in even longer recovery times, or lead to another injury.

JIS can diagnose and treat your injury, and help you recover

Shoulder impingement can happen to the best of us. Did you know that 1 in every 5 people will experience shoulder impingement at some point in their lives? If you are experiencing any trouble lifting your arms, putting them behind your back, or weakness in your shoulders, schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today. We’d love to help you get your body back on track!