Shoulder impingement can be a painful condition that can feel worse when reaching overhead and after sleeping. Shoulder impingement is caused when the space between our humerus (large bone at the top of the arm) and the acromion (clavicle or collar bone) narrows. The narrowed space can pinch the tendons of the rotator cuff and biceps. This can be felt as dull achy pain that is worse when doing overhead activities.
When this condition starts, it is usually the result of excessive overhead activities which cause swelling and bruising that narrow the joint. If left untreated this can develop into a tendinopathy because of the repeated mechanical stress. This makes the area more susceptible to being overloaded with use. If left even further, the joint undergoes trophic changes (bony adaptations because of stress to the area) in the form of osteoarthritis around the bones, thickening of the tendons and, in some cases, calcification of the tendons too.
For my quick shoulder test screen, click here to see if you have shoulder impingement.
So, enough doom and gloom – what can we do to fix it? As with most injuries it depends how long you have left it and how far gone you are. If the pain has just started you could let the area settle by ceasing or modifying the activity that caused the injury. For example, if you get the pain after doing shoulder press, try reducing the volume, frequency or load for a couple of weeks and ease back into it. The same can be said for all activities. Ice can be you best friend at this stage. I would also recommend starting a rehabilitative program (sample shown below). If you have had the pain for a while and it is not budging. It is advisable to seek out professional help before it gets worse.
The goal of these exercises it to create space in the joint, do not think of it as an exercise that you have to sweat from, but more of a therapy. Do not push any of the stretches into pain as it should feel nice. If you push into pain you are inflaming the joint further. When you finish you should feel better than when you started, if not you did too much.
To stay out of pain, make sure you warm up your shoulders, practise proper technique and follow a rehabilitative program that takes you from pain free range of motion exercises, to normalising the range of motion, and finally to progressing back to full strength.
Thanks for reading and I hope these tips helped. If you need any further assistance with your problem, do not hesitate to get in contact.