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Rotator Cuff Impingement, Part 1

Rotator Cuff Impingement, better known as Shoulder impingement syndromeis a condition where the shoulders’ rotator cuff tendons are intermittently trapped and compressed during shoulder movements. It occurs when there is impingement of tendons or bursa in the shoulder from bones of the shoulder. This causes injury to the shoulder tendons and bursa resulting in painful shoulder movements.


This week, we will begin an in-depth examination of Rotator Cuff Impingement, an injury common in both young athletes and middle-aged people. In Part 1, we will discuss common causes and symptoms for this painful condition.



In between the rotator cuff tendons and the bony arch is a lubricating sack called the subacromial bursa which helps to protect the tendons from touching the bone and provides a smooth surface for the tendons to glide over. However, any of these structures can be injured, whether they be bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments or bursas.

Rotator cuff pain is common in both young athletes and middle-aged people. It occurs when there is impingement of tendons or bursa in the shoulder from bones of the shoulder. Overhead, repetitive activity of the shoulder, such as painting, lifting, swimming, tennis, and other overhead activities. Other risk factors include bone and joint abnormalities. Although the condition may result from a minor injury, sometimes there is no clear cause.


Commonly rotator cuff impingement has the following symptoms:

  • Pain when reaching behind the back or head.

  • Sudden pain with lifting and reaching movements.

  • Shoulder pain when the arm is approximately at shoulder height or overhead.

  • Shoulder pain that can extend from the top of the shoulder to the elbow.

  • Pain when lying on the sore shoulder.

  • Shoulder pain at rest as the condition deteriorates.

  • Muscle weakness or pain when attempting to reach or lift.

If the pain comes on suddenly, the shoulder may be severely tender. All movement may be limited and painful.

Over time, impingement syndrome can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons (tendinitis) and bursa (bursitis). If not treated appropriately, the rotator cuff tendons can start to thin and tear. This causes significant weakness and may make it difficult for the person to elevate his or her arm. Some people can have rupture of their biceps muscle as part of this continuing impingement process.

Next week, we will explore the process of diagnosing Shoulder impingement syndrome and delve into treatment options.


If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive personalized care from an experienced, professional physical therapist!



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