written by Dr. Belle Picco

What is the condition?

Subacromial impingement refers to inflammation and irritation to the tendons of the rotator cuff as they pass through the subacromial space. The subacromial space houses the rotator cuff (comprised of four muscles) tendons, the long head of the biceps and ligaments. Impingement occurs when there is insufficient room for all the tendons and ligaments to pass through with ease. This results in pain, weakness and reduced range of motion with certain arm and shoulder movements.

How do I get the condition?

There are multiple causes that may lead to subacromial impingement, the most common include;

  • Muscular weakness: weakness through the rotator cuff can result in muscular imbalances at the front and the back of the shoulder, where typically everyone I stronger through the chest placing extra strain on the rotator cuff muscles to work hard to maintain posture
  • Overuse: a sudden increase in physical activity (predominantly weight based training) can predispose the shoulder to an impingement injury by inflaming the tendons and causing friction through the subacromial space
  • Degenerative changes: degeneration through the shoulder and the tendons can lead to impingement
  • Shoulder instability: weakness and instability can predisposed you to subluxation and increase the likelihood of friction occurring between the tendons of the shoulder.

How long does it last for?

Subacromial impingement varies depending on why you have it and how severe it is. Identifying your causative factor will be the main thing that will determine the longevity of the problem. Typically, an impingement based injury can take up to three months to heal. However, you can usually return to activity after a couple of weeks and slowly build back up to your normal over the time with adequate management.

What do I have to do when I have it?

It is important to identify why you have your subacromial impingement. Once you’ve done that, there are a few things you can implement to assist with the pain and get you back to normal, pain free range of motion.

  • Initially, it is important to avoid what is causing your pain i.e. avoid overhead weights at the gym, avoid slouching at your desk etc.
  • If appropriate for you, anti inflammatory drugs can help with the associated inflammation and symptomatic pain relief.
  • Resistance band strengthening for the rotator cuff to help offload the tendons and the strain on the shoulder itself. Two exercises I highly recommend are external rotation with a band and 45 degree rows with a band (green band works best for both of these).
  • Stretch the anterior (front) of the chest
  • Treatment with your osteopath or massage therapist to help take the strain off the shoulder and address any compensations that have occurred due to your pain.

If you’re suffering from Shoulder pain, come in to Body and Health Creation and Osteopathy Docklands for an accurate diagnosis and we’ll put together a treatment plan to reduce your pain and get you back to doing the things you want to do.


This post was written by Dr. Belle Picco 

osteopathy Docklands, Subacromial impingement injury

You can find out more about Belle here or book an appointment with her here .
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