Shoulder impingement – or subacrominal impingement as it is sometimes called – can be debilitating.  I’ve treated people with subacromial impingement – and – I have it myself.

There are many potential causes of this particular shoulder problem, with the primary cause being a rotator cuff inflammation (which again can be caused by several things).

Any cause of the impingement syndrome, regardless of what it is, creates this problem when it decreases the available space between the top of the front of the shoulder blade (the acromion) where it joins the collarbone and the long bone of the upper arm (the humerus, though this condition is not very funny).

Because there is less space available for the structures that pass through it, it is all too easy to ‘pinch’ them within that space and cause more inflammation.  Avoiding movements that reduce this space, along side your exercise programme, will help you recover faster.

Common movements that aggravate impingement syndrome are:

  • Overhead work (like reaching into a high cabinet) – especially if you have to bring your arm centrally to the front of your body
  • Holding/carrying/placing an object at or above shoulder height
  • Reaching across the front of your chest to the opposite side, especially close to shoulder height
  • Reaching around the back of your head (think: hair washing, putting your hair up
  • Especially if it’s been a while since doing strength training – any carrying far away from your body (awkward boxes, even if they are light)
  • Sleeping on the shoulder
  • Rolling over in bed in a way that requires you to bear weight onto the arm (jamming the arm into the space)
  • Weight bearing onto the arm (as in a press up)
  • Crossing your arms across your chest (with the affected arm on the ‘inside’ of the cross)

Progressive exercise and strength training is an important part of your recovery.  Before you begin strength training, it’s ideal if the inflammation settles a bit and avoiding these compressive movements will help.