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Home » Anatomy » Shoulder Impingement: Definition-Symptoms-Causes

Shoulder Impingement: Definition-Symptoms-Causes

Shoulder impingement is a common condition that occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles and the bursa within the shoulder joint become compressed or irritated during movement. This can lead to pain, limited range of motion, and functional limitations. In this article, we will delve into the signs, symptoms, causes, and mechanisms of shoulder impingement, providing a comprehensive understanding of this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement:

Shoulder Pain

The primary symptom of shoulder impingement is pain, which is typically felt in the front or side of the shoulder. The pain may be described as a dull ache or a sharp, intense sensation. It is often aggravated by overhead activities or reaching behind the back.

Limited Range of Motion

Individuals may experience difficulty raising the affected arm fully or rotating it outward. Activities such as reaching, lifting, or throwing may be accompanied by a sense of stiffness or restriction.

Weakness and Instability during Shoulder Impingement

In some cases, condition can lead to weakness in the affected arm, making it challenging to perform daily tasks or participate in sports activities. Instability or a feeling of the shoulder “giving way” may also be present.

Night Pain

It can cause pain that disrupts sleep, especially when lying on the affected side. This can lead to sleep disturbances and impact overall quality of life.

Causes and Mechanisms:

Structural Factors

Certain anatomical features can predispose individuals to shoulder impingement. These include a hooked or curved acromion (a bony projection of the shoulder blade), abnormalities in the shape of the humeral head, and bone spurs or osteophytes that develop over time.

Repetitive Overhead Movements

Activities involving repetitive overhead movements, such as overhead sports (e.g., swimming, tennis), painting, or construction work, can contribute to this disease. These movements may result in chronic irritation and inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and bursa.

Muscle Imbalances

Imbalances in the strength and flexibility of the muscles around the shoulder joint can lead to altered mechanics and increased risk of impingement. Weakness in the rotator cuff muscles and scapular stabilizers, combined with tightness in the chest and posterior shoulder muscles, can disrupt the optimal alignment of the shoulder joint.

Trauma or Injury

Acute injuries, such as a fall onto an outstretched hand or a direct blow to the shoulder, can damage the structures within the shoulder joint and contribute to impingement. Additionally, previous shoulder injuries or surgeries may alter the biomechanics and increase the risk of impingement.


Shoulder impingement is a common condition characterized by compression or irritation of the rotator cuff tendons and bursa within the  joint. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial for early diagnosis and intervention. Understanding the causes and mechanisms behind condition can help individuals take preventive measures and seek appropriate treatment. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. Prompt intervention, including physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, medical interventions, can help alleviate symptoms.

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