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What Does An Impinged Shoulder Feel Like?

What Does An Impinged Shoulder Feel Like

Shoulder impingement syndrome, often simply referred to as shoulder impingement, occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the narrow passage in the shoulder. This condition can lead to pain, discomfort, and a decrease in shoulder mobility, affecting an individual’s ability to perform daily activities.

Here’s a closer look at what shoulder impingement feels like…

Common Symptoms

  • Pain and Tenderness – One of the hallmark symptoms of shoulder impingement is a sharp, aching pain in the front of the shoulder and the side of the arm. The pain may worsen when reaching overhead, behind the back, or while sleeping on the affected side.
  • Weakness – Individuals may experience weakness in the shoulder, making it difficult to lift objects or perform activities that require raising the arm.
  • Reduced Range of Motion – There may be a noticeable decrease in the range of motion, especially when attempting to reach overhead, which can make daily tasks like combing hair or reaching for items on high shelves challenging.
  • Pain When Lying on the Affected Shoulder – Lying directly on the affected shoulder can exacerbate the pain, often making it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.
  • “Catching” Sensation – Some individuals report a catching or grinding sensation in the shoulder when moving the arm, especially in specific positions.

Activities That May Exacerbate Symptoms

  • Overhead Activities – Activities that involve lifting the arm overhead, such as throwing a ball, swimming, or placing items on high shelves, can trigger or worsen pain.
  • Repetitive Use – Repetitive arm motions, common in certain sports or occupations, can aggravate the condition.
  • Prolonged Activities – Activities that require the arm to be held up for extended periods, such as painting a ceiling or holding a phone to the ear, can also increase discomfort.

Managing Shoulder Impingement

If you suspect you have shoulder impingement, it’s crucial to seek a professional evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage and help alleviate symptoms. Management strategies may include:

  • Rest and Activity Modification – Avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain is often the first step in treatment.
  • Physical Therapy – A physical therapist can design a program to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and restore range of motion.
  • Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Ice and Heat Therapy – Applying ice packs can reduce inflammation, while heat therapy can help relax and loosen the muscles around the shoulder.

Shoulder impingement can significantly impact daily life due to pain, weakness, and limited mobility. Recognizing the symptoms and understanding how they affect activities can guide individuals in seeking appropriate care. With timely intervention, including rest, physical therapy, and possibly medical treatment, many people can recover from shoulder impingement and return to their normal activities without lasting discomfort.