Rotator Cuff Impingement: Signs & Treatment Options

Health & Medical Blog

If you have been experiencing shoulder pain on an occasional or regular basis, then you may simply be waiting for this pain to go away if it does not interfere with your everyday life. However, be aware that shoulder pain often worsens without proper medical diagnosis and treatment; for this reason, you should learn about the possible shoulder injury you may have and its treatment options. 

Typically, shoulder pain is caused by a rotator cuff injury. Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surrounds the area where your upper arm bone meets your shoulder blade. One common rotator cuff injury is called rotator cuff impingement, which unlike a sudden tear or other possible rotator cuff injury, is typically caused by overuse of this muscle group over time. 

Read on to learn more about the signs of rotator cuff impingement and treatment options for this common shoulder overuse injury. 

Rotator Cuff Impingement Signs

Rotator cuff impingement pain stems from a narrowing of the space between the tip of the shoulder blade and rotator cuff tendons and bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac in each shoulder. This narrowing occurs due to tendon swelling. As the shoulder blade tip rubs against the tendons and/or bursa, it can cause swelling and pain in the shoulder. 

Specific rotator cuff impingement signs include: 

  • Pain that worsens when lifting objects
  • Loss of shoulder strength
  • Decreased range-of-motion in the shoulder
  • Pain at night when the injury becomes severe

Pain and other symptoms may be mild and easily ignorable when rotator cuff impingement begins and then worsen greatly as the condition progresses. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help

If left untreated, rotator cuff impingement will not only continue to cause pain, but it can also lead to the development of shoulder bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, or rotator cuff tears. Before your doctor creates a treatment plan, they will likely order several tests to determine if you are truly suffering from rotator cuff impingement or another shoulder problem with similar symptoms. 

If impingement alone is detected on MRI or other medical scans, then physical therapy will likely be recommended to help relieve shoulder pain and slowly eradicate the condition entirely. 

Your physical therapist will inform you of what daily activities to avoid that may worsen your shoulder impingement. In addition, they will prescribe shoulder exercises that help stretch the muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff to decrease tension in the shoulder and improve shoulder range of motion. 

During physical therapy, you will also be taught pain management techniques, such as when and how to use cold therapy to reduce shoulder pain during the injury recovery process, and your physical therapist may also prescribe some pain relief treatments that are performed in-office. 

If you have been suffering from shoulder pain, and it does not seem to be getting better over time, then visit a medical professional to obtain a shoulder pain diagnosis and referral to a physical therapist


30 September 2021

Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands

My name is Katie Langer. For a long time, I was bed ridden and I felt like I had no control over my life. I simply went along with what was instructed by my doctor and I didn't ask questions. It wasn't that my doctor wasn't willing to work with me, but I preferred to simply not think about the illness I was suffering from. I didn't realize that some of the symptoms I was suffering from were side effects of my medication and were not normal. After communicating more with my doctor, I was able to alleviate my symptoms. Since then, I've taken an interest in patient-doctor relationships and how to improve them.