You might not realize how much you rely on your shoulder until it becomes too painful to move. The shoulder is a unique part of the human body that can easily become injured. If you experience shoulder pain and actively participate in activities such as tennis, swimming, pitching, weightlifting, golf, gymnastics, volleyball, or you regularly lift heavy objects above your head, you may have shoulder impingement syndrome.
Why is the shoulder unique?
While most of the body is designed for muscles to surround the bones, the shoulder is different. The shoulder bone surrounds the muscles. Under the shoulder resides a group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff allows you to reach your arm up above your head and behind your back. The rotator cuff clearly has a very important role and can cause major problems if it becomes injured with the development of shoulder impingement syndrome.
What is shoulder impingement syndrome?
Shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is not an injury to the actual structure of the shoulder, rather it describes a compression or inflammation of the rotator cuff. When injured, the rotator cuff swells but because it is surrounded by bone, the pressure builds up in the tendon and causes the muscle to compress. When these muscles squeeze tightly, blood flow to the capillaries is blocked. Once the blood flow decreases, the tissue in the tendon begins to fray and swell. This domino effect is what causes pain every time you reach your arm above your head or behind your back.
What are the stages of SIS?
The domino effect usually does not happen all at once. Various levels of SIS are diagnosed depending on your age and the frequency you participate in the activities known to irritate the rotator cuff. The first stage is limited to inflammation and swelling in the shoulder. Stage two is marked by weakened shoulder muscles. Stage three is identified by tears in the rotator cuff, tendon ruptures, or changes in the bone. If you begin noticing inflammation or discomfort in your shoulder, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Addressing the issues at stage one can often lead to a complete recovery.
What are the symptoms and treatments of SIS?
Symptoms to watch for include difficulty when reaching behind your back, pain when you reach your arm above your head, or shoulder weakness. If you have difficulty placing something as light as a book on an overhead shelf, you may have torn your rotator cuff and should seek medical attention immediately. In most cases, rest and physical therapy can lead to complete shoulder healing—especially if you address your pain quickly. Your physical therapist can teach you exercises that you can work on at home. Consult your physician if you have questions or concerns about pain medication. At NewSouth NeuroSpine, we have a state of the art physical therapy center with a staff dedicated to helping you get control of your pain and get back to your favorite activities. If you are experiencing any symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome, make an appointment with us today.