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Nagging Shoulder Pain Might Signal Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Nagging Shoulder Pain Might Signal Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Raising your arm leads to shoulder pain and you're having trouble sleeping at night thanks to nagging discomfort. These are two signs that point toward shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tendinitis.

You need help reaching for items due to shoulder pain that greets any upward movement in your arm. Or maybe you’re struggling to sleep well due to nagging pain in your shoulder when you lie down or try to sleep on your side.

These seemingly different scenarios can often be tied back to the same problem — shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tendinitis (or shoulder impingement, for short). Tellingly, shoulder impingement accounts for between 44% and 65% of cases of shoulder pain, so it’s worth understanding a little bit about this condition if you’re dealing with shoulder issues.

To help, Dr Rajiv Sood and the team of musculoskeletal experts here at Spine & Orthopedic Center take a closer look at shoulder impingement in this month’s blog post. 

A quick lesson in shoulder anatomy

A great place to start is to better understand the anatomy in question. Your shoulders are large ball-and-socket joints that join together three bones:

  1. Your scapula, or shoulder blade
  2. Your clavicle, or collarbone
  3. Your humerus, or upper arm bone

To keep your upper arm bone attached to your body and firmly in the socket, each of your shoulders features a rotator cuff, which is a group of four muscles that come together to form a tendon. This tendon covers the head of your humerus and attaches to your body just below your acromion, which is the bone at the top of your shoulder. 

There’s a bursa sac located between your rotator cuff and your acromion to promote smooth gliding in your shoulder joint.

What happens with shoulder impingement

Now that we’ve introduced the players let’s take a look at how shoulder impingement occurs. When you raise your arm, the space in which your rotator cuff functions — between your humerus and the acromion — narrows.

With impingement, your rotator cuff becomes pinched between the two bones, which can lead to:

  • Damage to your rotator cuff (tendinitis)
  • Inflammation in the bursa sac

In many cases, shoulder impingement is due to repetitive use, which is why it’s common among swimmers and house painters. This condition can also occur due to an irregularly formed acromion — it’s curved, or there’s a bone spur that’s catching the rotator cuff.

Signs of shoulder impingement

Now, let’s get to your symptoms. With shoulder impingement, the most common complaints are:

  • A dull ache in your shoulder
  • Tenderness in your shoulder
  • Pain when you try to raise your arm 
  • Shoulder pain at night when you sleep
  • Acute pain in the front of your shoulder and your upper arm

The pain can come and go but if left untreated, the discomfort can become a constant companion.

Waving goodbye to shoulder pain

Whether your shoulder pain fits what we describe above or not, it’s a good idea to come see us for a proper diagnosis. After we perform a physical examination and review your symptoms, we turn to advanced imaging to get a good look inside.

If we find that shoulder impingement is responsible for your shoulder pain, we get to work to relieve your pain and heal the tissues with one or more of the following:

  • Joint injections
  • Medications
  • PRP injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy

In addition to these treatments, we will likely recommend giving your shoulder a break and modifying your activities.

To get back to a life without shoulder pain, your first step is to contact our office in Jonesboro, Georgia, to set up an appointment.