Shoulder Impingement

Reach-up and touch your right collar bone. Run your fingers to the right along this horizontal bone until you get to the very top of your shoulder. At some point as you traverse over one or two bumps, what you are feeling is part of your “shoulder-blade” which wraps around from your back to make contact with your collar-bone. Parts of your shoulder-blade and collar-bone come together and form what is essentially a “roof” on top of each shoulder. This overhang protects part of the rotator-cuff muscle that lies beneath it from practical everyday things like straps on heavy bags. On the other hand, when you raise your arm overhead the space between this bony roof and the very top of your shoulder bone gets very tight for the muscle and related structures that lie directly underneath. It is classically thought that this anatomical arrangement paired with excessive overhead activities such as swimming, tennis, or pushing heavy weights upwards can lead to what is termed shoulder “impingement syndrome.” This results in the underlying muscle tissue getting excessively pinched or squeezed. Shoulder pain and weakness can result making it difficult to lift objects and reach the hand overhead. Physical therapists evaluate “impingement syndrome” and determine individualized treatment regimens that a person can safely do in order to promote an optimal environment for the body to heal itself.

Anna Kotula, DPT