Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the tendons of the shoulder joint. It is one of the most common causes of pain in the adult shoulder. The shoulder is a ‘ball-and-socket’ joint. The top of the upper arm bone (humerus), shaped as a ball, fits neatly into the glenoid socket, which is part of the shoulder blade (scapula). Shoulder impingement is also called as swimmer’s shoulder, tennis shoulder or rotator cuff tendinitis.


Impingement results from pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade (scapula) as the arm is lifted. It is more likely to occur in young and middle-aged people who engage in physical activities that require repeated overhead arm movements. Pain may be due to bursitis or an inflammation of the bursa, which overlies the rotator cuff or a tendonitis of the cuff itself. In some circumstances, a partial tear of the rotator cuff may cause impingement pain.


Individuals with shoulder impingement may experience severe pain at rest and during activities, weakness of the arm and difficulty in raising the hand overhead.


Diagnosis involves a physical examination by the doctor; wherein the possible range of movements with the affected shoulder are evaluated. X-rays and MRI scans may be ordered to view the injury and inflammation.

Conservative treatment options

Shoulder impingement can be treated with rest, ice packs, anti-inflammatory drugs and avoiding activities involving the shoulder. Physical therapy may be advised to strengthen the muscles and steroid injections may be administered if pain persists.


Arthroscopic surgery is recommended if the rotator cuff tendons are torn and to remove bone spurs.