The most common shoulder problem is shoulder impingement. The rotator cuff muscles are a group of muscles that pass through the sub-acromial space in the shoulder joint and assist with shoulder stability and shoulder movements. If this sub-acromial space becomes smaller or the rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or swollen then they will become impinged by certain shoulder movements.

What is shoulder impingement?

Shoulder impingement is what happens with the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles get trapped in the shoulder joint as they pass through causing weakness, pain and loss of shoulder function. Most patients with the condition will heal well following appropriate physiotherapy and early physiotherapy is recommended to speed up recovery the recovery for shoulder impingement.

What causes shoulder impingement?

The space where the rotator cuff tendons pass is very small and therefore anything that may narrow this space can cause shoulder impingement including trauma such as a fall or accident, or overuse leading to irritation of the structures in the shoulder joint.

In sports, shoulder impingement is common in those activities that require throwing such as cricket and baseball or overhead movements such as swimming, racquet sports and paddling sports.

What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement?

People with shoulder impingement normally feel pain at the front, back, top or outer side of the shoulder. Pain can radiate into the arm as far as the elbow and symptoms generally worsen during activities that make the shoulder space smaller and include activities involving lifting your hands above your head.

How is shoulder impingement diagnosed?

A physiotherapist here at Farrell Physiotherapy can provide a full shoulder assessment and can perform specific tests to determine if you have shoulder impingement. Ultrasound scans can also be done to see if there are any other associated conditions such as subacromial bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis. Other scans such as an X-ray, CT or MRI scan can determine if any other conditions are also present.

What treatment can Farrell Physiotherapy offer for shoulder impingement?

Each person’s treatment is different and following an accurate assessment by your physiotherapist an individual treatment plan is created.

Treatment can include:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Stretching exercises
  • Electrotherapy
  • Joint manipulation
  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Range of movement exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Postural advice, education and re-training
  • Activity modification advice
  • Taping
  • Anti-inflammatory advice
  • Corticosteroid advice
  • Graded return to activity/sports programme

In some cases where there is significant rotator cuff pathology and bony spurring, surgery may be required to improve the condition.

Benefit of physiotherapy for shoulder impingement?

Early treatment can prevent the problem worsening and allow you to get back to your best as quickly as possible. The benefits you receive from physiotherapy will be dependent on your symptoms and goals.

Physiotherapy aims to ultimately alleviate your symptoms and:

  • Reduce pain
  • Increase range of movement
  • Increase shoulder strength
  • Improve posture
  • Provide a safe return to activities
  • Prevent impingement occurring again

If you would like to book an assessment or enquire further, please call 01245 830280 or e-mail: