The shoulder joint is surrounded by four muscles and tendons that provide strength and stability, and are capped with a bursa, or tissue cushion to protect the shoulder bones. Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become impinged. With normal use, these tendons provide the arm with a wide range of motion. When impinged, these tendons fray and can become inflamed, causing chronic, dull pain and loss of motion in the shoulder.
People with jobs that require heavy lifting or reaching or working overhead tend to be the most susceptible to rotator cuff injuries. The condition can also be caused by keeping the arm in the same position for long periods of time. The risk of shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injury increases with age. Acute tears happen suddenly. Degenerative tears, which are more common in older people, occur over time.
What are the signs and symptoms of shoulder impingement?
- Stiffness and swelling in the front of the shoulder
- Pain felt during activity and rest
- Pain when lifting or reaching
- Radiating pain from the shoulder down through the arm
- Loss of strength
- Inability to use arms behind the back