Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement is usually caused by pinching of the rotator cuff tendons and their overlying bursa between the bones in one’s shoulder, which can occur when reaching overhead. Shoulder impingement can also be associated with other rotator cuff injuries. 

Typically, an impinging shoulder will resolve itself in a matter of weeks to months. This is especially so with the right strengthening exercises. However, there are cases where it can become an ongoing problem.

Causes  |  Symptoms  |  Treatment Options

What Causes Shoulder Impingement?  

The movement of lifting your arm causes the tendon to pass through the subacromial space, which exists at the top of your shoulder. This space can be narrowed with poor shoulder posture or poor muscle balance. 

Alternatively, the bursa overlying the tendons may become inflamed and irritated from either overuse of the shoulder or a shoulder injury. 

Other causes of shoulder impingement include the development of bony spurs on the acromion as one ages or a curved acromion.

What are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement?

The symptoms of shoulder impingement are similar to that experienced if one is suffering from a rotator cuff tear. Your arm may hurt both at rest and when in motion. Patients often describe pain from a shoulder impingement as being a dull ache or weakness in the arm. 

You may experience these symptoms if you are suffering from a shoulder impingement:

  • Pain from the side of the arm to the front of the shoulder
  • Stiffness 
  • Sudden pain when reaching upwards
  • Pain when resting

Shoulder Impingement Treatment

When dealing with shoulder impingement, our doctors may recommend that you first try to manage the condition with a non-surgical treatment plan. If the issue persists, you may then be asked to go for surgery to alleviate the condition.


Non-surgical treatment of shoulder impingement includes a series of exercises that both improve posture and alleviate the impingement. Alternatively, our doctors may recommend steroid injections to help relieve the pain and swelling of shoulder impingement. However, you will still be required to perform the strengthening exercises.


In the case that neither the exercises nor the steroid injections are helping, and if the symptoms are causing problems with your daily activities such as dressing, washing and/or sleeping, it may be recommended that you have surgery. Surgery for shoulder impingement is called subacromial decompression.

This is a keyhole surgery that involves widening the space surrounding the rotator cuff tendon to prevent it from becoming impinged.