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Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement is when a tendon in your shoulder rubs or catches on a nearby bone.

Common symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain or weakness in your shoulder. It's usually worse when you lift your arm.

Shoulder exercises, ice packs and painkillers can help with shoulder impingement. Steroid injections or surgery may help if it does not get better.

Shoulder impingement is often caused by an injury to your shoulder, using your shoulder too much, or damage that can happen with age.

Read more on the NHS website.

Common symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain or weakness in your shoulder. It's usually worse when you lift your arm.

Symptoms of shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement can start suddenly or come on gradually.

Symptoms include:

Your shoulder will not usually be stiff. If it is, you might have a frozen shoulder instead.

Read more on the NHS website.

Shoulder exercises, ice packs and painkillers can help with shoulder impingement. Steroid injections or surgery may help if it does not get better.

Self-care

  • Avoid things that make the pain worse – avoid activities that involve repeatedly lifting your arm above your head (such as swimming or playing tennis) for a few days or weeks. Ask a GP or physiotherapist when you can restart these activities.
  • Do not stop moving your arm completely – try to carry on with your normal daily activities as much as possible so your shoulder does not become weak or stiff. It's usually best to avoid using a sling.
  • Hold an ice pack (or a bag of ice cubes or frozen vegetables) to your shoulder for around 20 minutes several times a day – but do not put it directly on your skin. Wrap it in a towel first.
  • Take painkillers – anti-inflammatory painkillers (such as ibuprofen) or paracetamol may help. A GP can prescribe stronger painkillers if needed.

Medical treatments

Shoulder exercises

A GP may be able to advise you about simple shoulder exercises you can do.

Physiotherapists can also diagnose shoulder impingement and suggest exercises to help improve shoulder posture and further strengthen your muscles to improve your pain and range of movement.

You may need to do these exercises with a physiotherapist at first, but after a while you'll usually be able to continue doing them at home.

Go back to a GP or physiotherapist if the exercises make your pain worse or your pain does not improve after a few weeks.

Steroid injections

Steroid injections into your shoulder can help relieve pain if rest and exercises on their own do not help.

But it's still important to do your shoulder exercises, as injections usually only have an effect for a few weeks and your pain may come back if you stop the exercises.

While the injection can be repeated if needed, having more than 2 is not usually recommended because it might damage the tendon in your shoulder in the long term.

The injections can also have side effects, such as permanent dimpling or lightening of the skin where the injection is given.

Surgery

An operation called a subacromial decompression may be an option if other treatments have not worked, although there's some uncertainty about how much it helps.

The operation involves widening the space around the rotator cuff tendon so it does not rub or catch on anything nearby.

The operation is usually done using small surgical instruments passed through small cuts in your shoulder.

This is a type of keyhole surgery known as arthroscopy.

It's usually done under general anaesthetic, where you're asleep.

Most people can go home the same day or the day after surgery and are able to use their shoulder normally again after a few weeks.

Read more on the NHS website.

Shoulder impingement is often caused by an injury to your shoulder, using your shoulder too much, or damage that can happen with age.

Read more on the NHS website.