Shoulder Instability & Impingement

Shoulder instability and shoulder impingement can cause very uncomfortable symptoms and if left untreated could cause greater problems. Thankfully, this diagnosis can be addressed with physical therapy.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of shoulder impingement are pain in the front of the shoulder when trying to reach above head or behind the back, pain with getting dressed, pain when lying on the affected side, and feeling weak throughout the shoulder and arm. Common symptoms of shoulder instability include the shoulder dislocating or feeling like it will, pain in the shoulder, and inability to actively move the shoulder.

Shoulder Instability & Shoulder Impingement

Causes

Shoulder impingement is a diagnosis used to describe the result of narrowing of space between two bony structures that presses on the tendon of a rotator cuff or bicep tendon, causing significant pain. Most common causes of shoulder impingement are overuse/overhead activities, weakness of the rotator cuff muscles, postural impairments, or trauma.

The glenohumeral joint is the main shoulder joint. It is a “ball and socket” joint, made up of the head of the humerus (“ball”) and the glenoid cavity (“socket”). When the head of the humerus is not secure within the cavity, it is known as unstable. Instability can cause shoulder dislocations. Reasons as to why the shoulder can become unstable is weakness of the shoulder muscles, repeated injury to the shoulder that causes severe stretch to the ligaments, or a trauma to the shoulder.

Diagnosis

At Specialized Physical Therapy, we will conduct a thorough medical history review focused on your specific symptoms to determine the cause of your symptoms. A physical therapist is trained to identify signs and symptoms consistent with shoulder instability and shoulder impingement. Your physical therapist will also analyze your past medical history, activity level, and standing posture, which aids in creating an appropriate treatment protocol.

Treatment and Exercises

After a thorough initial evaluation, your therapist will create an individualized physical therapy program to diminish your symptoms as quickly as possible. The program will include stretches, massage, mobilizations, and strengthening exercises specific to your goals. The treatment will be structured to first identify why the pain started, to reduce swelling and pain, to regain mobility, and to return you to your prior level of function.

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