Impingement syndrome is a common condition affecting the shoulder often seen in aging adults. This condition is closely related to shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis. These conditions may occur alone or in combination.
In virtually all parts of your body, bones are the innermost structures and are surrounded by muscles. When an injury occurs to the rotator cuff muscles, they respond by swelling. However, because the rotator cuff muscles are surrounded by bone, when they swell, a series of other events occur.
The pressure within the muscles increases, which results in compression and loss of blood flow in the small blood vessels. When the blood flow decreases, the muscle tissue begins to fray like a rope. Motions such as reaching up behind the back and reaching up overhead to put on a coat or blouse, for example, may cause pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome?
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The typical symptoms of impingement syndrome include difficulty reaching up behind the back, pain with overhead use of the arm and weakness of shoulder muscles.
If these muscles are injured for a long period of time, the muscle can actually tear in two, resulting in a rotator cuff tear. This causes significant weakness and may make it difficult for the person to elevate his or her arm. Some people will have rupture of their biceps muscle as part of this continuing impingement process.
How Is Impingement Syndrome Diagnosed?
Diagnosis begins with a medical history and physical examination by your doctor. X-rays will be taken to rule out arthritis and may show changes in the bone that indicate injury of the muscle. Bone spurs or changes in the normal contour of the bone may be present. Impingement syndrome may be confirmed when an injection of a small amount of an anesthetic into the space under one of the shoulder bones relieves pain.