Shoulder Impingement Syndrome


Home » Patient Resources » Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Also called swimmer’s shoulder, shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition in which tendons in the shoulder are squeezed or trapped during movement, resulting in pain. The bursa (a sac filled with lubricating fluid) acts as a cushion and surface that allows the rotator cuff tendons to slide under the acromion (the bony part of your shoulder blade) with minimal friction. Find out more about its causes, symptoms and treatment below.


Shoulder impingement syndrome can have several causes, including:

  • Overuse of your shoulder in an elevated position (e.g. basketball, painting)
  • Repetitive shoulder activities (e.g. swimming, archery)
  • Poor posture (sitting with rounded shoulders)
  • Overloading of the area with heavy lifting
  • An accident, such as a fall
  • Tight anterior chest wall muscles
  • Wear and tear with age


Please note that every patient is different so symptoms can vary. You may experience a combination of the following or just one:

  • Pain or clicking when putting your hand behind your back or head
  • Pain reaching across your chest
  • Pain putting on a seatbelt
  • Pain when lying on the affected side
  • Restricted shoulder movement
  • General pain in your shoulder
  • Muscle weakness or pain when attempting to reach or lift
  • An arc of shoulder pain approximately when your arm is at shoulder height and/or when your arm is overhead


Please Note – Persisting shoulder impingement syndrome may cause shoulder bursitis or a structural injury to your rotator cuff tendons (rotator cuff tendinopathy or rotator cuff tear).

An athletic man holding his painful shoulder after workout in the gym


Treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome can include:

Avoid Provocative Positions

Avoiding positions which your shoulder tends to find most provocative, such as sustained overhead movements or performing movements which an outstretched arm, can allow you take control of your shoulder impingement symptoms and prevent them from worsening.

With this being said, for those individuals who are unable to avoid performing such movements as they form part of their sport or profession, it is imperative that they develop the necessary strength and control at their shoulder joint to perform these movements as efficiently as possible- read more below!


Improve your Scapula-humeral Rhythm

Improving the relationship between your humerus (upper arm) and your scapula (shoulder blade) can have a profound effect on your shoulder impingement pain. This form of brain training, also known as ‘motor control’, is an effective way of making sure that your shoulder joint moves as efficiently as possible throughout range. This is primarily achieved by improving the mind-muscle connection amongst the muscles that work to stabilize your shoulder blade.

These shoulder blade stabilizing muscles work collectively to ensure that scapulohumeral rhythm is maintained whilst you perform your daily activities and optimal shoulder function is achieved- therefore preventing the likelihood of shoulder impingement!

Improve the Strength, Control and Endurance of Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff muscles play a major role in stabilizing the humerus within its socket-and help improve overall stability of your shoulder joint, whereby reducing the likelihood of shoulder impingement.

The rotator cuff also provides strength to the surrounding ligaments which make up the joint capsule of the shoulder. In the case of shoulder impingement, the rotator cuff muscles reduce the likelihood of any unnecessary movements occurring as the humerus glides within its socket.


Release of Surrounding Soft Tissues

Soft tissue release of tight muscles surrounding the shoulder joint can allow for an immediate improvement in shoulder symptoms, range and quality of movement.

Although this is unlikely to lead to long term improvements in shoulder impingement if provided in isolation, when combined with exercise soft tissue release of these structures can allow you to feel more comfortable performing movements which you would usually find provocative.

Recovery Time

This is dependent on a number of factors like patient’s current health, lifestyle and age. In some cases, one treatment session is enough; in other cases, it could take weeks or months.

If you’re suffering from shoulder impingement syndrome, put an end to it now and contact our expert team of physios at Healthy Body Physiotherapists who will assess, diagnose and create an individualised treatment plan just for you.

Have any questions?

Send us an enquiry and we’ll be in touch.