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Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement, also known as rotator cuff tendinitis, occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become compressed against the shoulder blade (acromion). This condition is common in young athletes, especially for tennis players, rowers, swimmers, and weight lifters. It is also common for those with occupations that require repetitive overhead movement, such as painting or construction.   

Causes and risk factors:
Impingement is usually caused by overuse of the shoulder, but can also develop from an injury, or with no apparent cause at all.  


  • Swelling and tenderness in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain and stiffness when raising the arm
  • Radiating pain
  • Loss of strength and range of motion
  • Difficulty doing everyday activities like showering or getting dressed

Conservative treatment options include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and physical therapy. If those methods do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be needed to create space in the shoulder joint. Commonly this injury is repaired with arthroscopic surgery, but can be performed with an open surgical technique as well. The swollen tissues are removed and the surgeon trims back the acromion bone to allow for normal pain-free motion.