The Real Culprit Of Shoulder Pain And Weakness: Shoulder Impingement

The Real Culprit Of Shoulder Pain And Weakness: Shoulder Impingement

Pinching in your shoulder. Shooting, searing pain when reaching overhead. Achiness in your shoulder when carrying a backpack, or even just lying down. There’s never a convenient time for these kinds of symptoms to crop up, is there? 

If you’re having difficulty reaching up and behind your back without pain or a weak feeling, you may be experiencing shoulder impingement. 

The good news? Shoulder impingement is very treatable. In this article, we explore what shoulder impingement is and some of the most effective ways to treat this injury.

Shoulder Impingement – What Is It?

Shoulder impingement happens in the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. Your rotator cuff helps to keep everything in place and operating smoothly. Thus, it’s easy to understand why an injury to the rotator cuff can cause a breakdown in function, accompanied by pain and discomfort.

A shoulder impingement happens when the rotator cuff becomes overly inflamed and the swelling inside of the shoulder compresses the tendons it’s supposed to protect. This combination of inflammation and unnecessary compression leads to discomfort and can compromise the range of motion and mobility of the joint, making overhead reaching activities not only uncomfortable, but also more difficult to perform.

Causes Of Shoulder Impingement

In general, shoulder impingement is classified as an “overuse” injury, which is pretty much how it sounds– it’s pain or injury that crops up from overdoing it. If you suddenly increase an activity level that requires a good amount of shoulder movement, like tennis, swimming, or even construction work, you could be putting your shoulders at risk for an overuse injury, like shoulder impingement.

Precautions To Consider

Shoulder impingement generally responds very well to conservative care. However, when left untreated, this injury of the rotator cuff can turn more serious. If you don’t address your shoulder impingement or ignore your symptoms and keep performing the offending activities that led to injury in the first place, you may end up with a rotator cuff tear. A rotator cuff tear is a much more serious injury, that at times requires surgery. 

The moral of the story: if you believe you may have a shoulder impingement injury, seek care as soon as you can.

Effective At-Home Treatment For Shoulder Impingement

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, it’s important to seek care swiftly to properly diagnose what’s really going on. From there, a medical professional can point you in the right direction of what specific treatments may be beneficial to your injury. Additionally, there are many at-home methods of care that may aid in your healing.

The following recommendations are great starter treatments, but of course be sure to clear anything new with a doctor first. 


This tried-and-true classic has stood the test of treatment time for a reason…it works! Oftentimes, our bodies have the healing capabilities needed to kick an injury to the curb, but just need a little extra space to make it happen. Try to stay away from overhead reaching activities, carrying heavy or uneven loads on your back and shoulders, and in general rest your aggravated shoulder to allow for healing to take place. You may be surprised at just how effective basic rest (combined with some patience!) can be.

Ice Application

Getting inflammation under control is an incredibly important part of healing a shoulder impingement injury. Thus, in addition to ample rest, try applying ice packs to your affected area in 15-20 minute periods. You can do this several times per day, but be sure to place a towel or some kind of thin barrier between the ice and your skin. 

Pendulum Movement

A little bit of gentle mobility can help move inflammation out of the joint. This pendulum exercise is great for encouraging movement without strain. To perform it, bend gently at the waist while engaging your core and keeping your back flat. Let one arm hang down, and gently swing it forward and back 2-3 times. Pause, and repeat the exercises with the same arm side-to-side. Repeat these swings on the other arm. 

Wall Stretches

Wall stretches help encourage gentle movement as well. Face a wall, standing close enough to touch it easily. Reach one arm out to your side, and lean into the wall as your mobility and comfort allows. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder as you lean further in. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat on both sides as needed. 

Chiropractic Support For Better Shoulder Health

In your journey back to full health, chiropractic care is a safe and natural treatment regime for addressing a shoulder impingement injury. Chiropractic care utilizes gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities to realign your body. These gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow healing to take place.  Because shoulder impingement flares up with inflammation, modalities that can decrease overall inflammation (like chiropractic adjustments) can assist your body as it works toward complete healing. 

Additionally, your practitioner may recommend other exercises to perform outside of appointment times, to help expedite your healing process. By working consistent chiropractic care into your rehabilitation routine, you could cut down on your healing time and increase your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win. 

Schedule an appointment online or call us today. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.