Shoulder Impingement

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Shoulder Impingement Overview

Shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints heard by shoulder specialist Dr. Jervis Yau in his Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic practice. As the most mobile joint in the human body, any injury to the shoulder can cause a variety of issues, such as pain, weakness and instability. Shoulder impingement is a common cause of pain and is caused by pinching (impingement) of the rotator cuff tendons. The continuous pinching leads to inflammation and pain causing shoulder dysfunction.

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons rub against the bones and ligaments located on the top of the shoulder. This may be due to a bone spur that extends down from the acromion or from abnormal shoulder positioning related to poor posture. Chronic impingement may lead to persistent pain, weakness and even rotator cuff tears.

Swimmers and other athletes who use repetitive overhead motions are at an increased risk of this condition. Shoulder impingement has also been called “swimmer’s shoulder” because of the prevalence of the condition in the swimming population.

Age, tendon irritation and subacromial bursitis are also associated with shoulder impingement.

Shoulder Impingement Symptoms

Shoulder pain is the hallmark sign found in a patient affected by shoulder impingement. This is often worsened by overhead activities. Pain is often felt over the front of the joint and the outside of the upper arm. The level of pain may intensify at night in many patients, leading to a loss of sleep. Patients may also experience a sensation of shoulder grinding and joint weakness.

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Shoulder Impingement Diagnosis

If patients begin to experience shoulder pain and weakness over the front of the joint and outside of the upper arm, they are encouraged to contact Dr. Yau. Inflammation associated with this shoulder condition intensifies rapidly and has the possibility of masking injury symptoms. A complete shoulder examination with X-rays will help aid in the diagnosis.  MRI scan may also be ordered to rule out other concomitant injuries.

Shoulder Impingement Treatment

Non-Surgical

Non-surgical treatment is usually the initial plan recommended for patients suffering from shoulder impingement. A combination of rest, medications and physical therapy will be utilized to improve inflammation and shoulder pain. If the pain is too severe or continues with the use of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), Dr. Yau may perform a corticosteroid injection into the subacromial bursa.

Surgical

If patients continue to experience shoulder pain after non-surgical treatment, Dr. Yau may recommend arthroscopic surgery. This minimally invasive technique allows Dr. Yau to carefully examine the rotator cuff tendon and perform repairs as needed. Bone spurs, if present, will be removed do decrease the risk of further impingement.

If you believe shoulder impingement is the cause of your shoulder pain, please contact the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic practice of shoulder specialist Dr. Jervis Yau.

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