Shoulder Impingement: A Complete Guide to Physical Therapy

Perhaps you are unable to reach your behind to scratch that itch on the back. Or you feel a sharp shoulder pain as you try reaching for something on the upper shelf. If either of these feels familiar, you can be suffering from what is called shoulder impingement.

What is Shoulder Impingement?

This is a condition affecting the shoulders in which the pain may occur after an injury, a poor posture, or repetitive use, which puts pressure on the tendons and muscles around/in the shoulder joint.

Usually, rotator cuff muscles weaken and properly don’t work to move the shoulders that cause further pain and compression. If you don’t seek help from a shoulder surgeon, this may result in restriction and worsening pain in the rotator cuff.

You can feel pain in the shoulder’s back, side, or front, especially with raising the arms overhead. It might feel weak and prevent you from everyday tasks at work, school, or home.

The Common Causes

Shoulder impingement is as well as called subacromial impingement because the bursa, ligaments, and tendons under the acromion may become compressed or pinched.

Shoulder impingement may occur when microtrauma and compression harm the tendons. It can also be caused by the following:

  • Thickening of ligaments
  • Osteoarthritis around the shoulder region
  • Repetitive overhead movements, like golfing
  • Injuries like a fall
  • Thickening of bursa
  • Bony abnormalities of acromion


Physical therapists can perform evaluations and ask questions about the kind of pain you feel as well as other symptoms. A physical therapist may conduct motion and strength tests on the shoulder, determine your moisture, check for muscle weaknesses/imbalances, and ask about the job duties.

Special tests that involve gentle shoulder and arm movements can be carried out to determine which tendons are involved. An X-ray can as well be taken to know other conditions which may continue to discomfort, like arthritis or bony abnormalities/spurs.

How Physical Therapists May Help

It is vital to get treatment for the condition as soon as possible. If it is not treated, secondary conditions may result from it. This may include rotator-cuff tears/tendinitis or irritation of a bursa.

A physical therapist may help to treat the condition successfully. The expert will work with you to devise a suitable treatment plan specific to your goals and condition. The treatment plan may include pain management, functional training, muscle strengthening, manual therapy, range-of-motion exercises, and patient education.

Exercises Suitable for Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is very commonly seen in athletes and people who do a lot of overhead arm movements. The activity irritates the rotator cuff tendon as it rubs against the acromion repeatedly. Unless you take part in different forms of exercises, you won’t be able to relieve symptoms associated with shoulder impingement syndrome. Some of these exercises include the following:

  • Scapula squeeze
  • Lying external rotation
  • Bank shoulder stretch
  • Front shoulder stretch
  • Chest stretch

Concluding Remarks!

The shoulder is one of the complex pieces of machines. It is an elegant design giving the shoulders a range of motion. The shoulder will move painlessly and freely if every part is in good working condition. But if it doesn’t move freely because of pain, you might want to talk to a doctor to know the way forward.