Shoulder Impingement

What is a Shoulder Impingement?

A shoulder impingement is when the rotator cuff tendons become trapped with movement causing inflammation of the tendon or muscle. The tendon becomes inflamed as a result of the bone (Acromion) impinging and coming into contact every time the arm is lifted. A main indicator of shoulder impingement is the lack of mobility or presence of pain whenever lifting the arm or moving the shoulder in certain directions. To reduce pain you may need to limit movement with a splint or support the shoulder with a brace.

What causes Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement has two kinds of causes: primary and secondary.

A primary rotator cuff impingement happens with structural narrowing.

  • Stenosis is a condition that causes structural narrowing. The bone (Acromion) that protects the rotator cuff tendon may be smaller than usual – or structural narrowing may cause it to narrow causing less acromial space for the rotator cuff tendon.

The secondary cause of rotator cuff impingement comes from multi-directional instability of the shoulder. This can occur as a result of overuse of the shoulder muscles and ligaments over a long period of time in sports such as swimming, tennis and baseball.

  • The muscles and ligaments may slowly become weakened and loose especially when performing overhead movement.
  • As a result of the loosening of the muscle and ligament, joint movement in the rotator cuffs can become excessive to compensate. As such, the rotator cuff can become fatigued and result in inflammation
  • A more serious case of secondary shoulder impingement will cause the upper head of the humerus bone to rise into the sub-acromial space coming into contact and pressing on the rotator cuff tendon and muscles.

Secondary causes of shoulder impingement may be due to incorrect form when performing certain sporting movements, posture or excessive training. It is important to train and exercise with correct form to reduce the risk of injury.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

Feeling pain with movement above a certain range of motion is the most common indicator:

  • Pain is felt when lifting or rotating the shoulder past a certain height, usually at shoulder height and higher
  • Overhead exercises cause pain or feel restricted
  • Pain can be felt anywhere from the shoulder to the elbow
  • Shoulder muscles may experience weakness
  • Restricted movement due to pain


In order to treat pain caused by shoulder impingement, your doctor may prescribe you with anti-inflammatories or pain relief medication. Other helpful self-treatments include RICE:

  • Rest your shoulder from doing any activities that cause pain
  • Ice the affected area to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Compressing the shoulder to help with swelling
  • Elevation

Although these self-treatments will help with pain and swelling, it’s important to note that it will not fix the shoulder impingement. Please seek proper medical advice on how you can treat your shoulder impingement as injury can become recurring if not treated correctly. Find a trusted shoulder brace to help support and recover your impinged shoulder. Better Braces stock quality braces with fast delivery and 30 day money back guarantee among other offers so that you can be confident in your purchase.

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