Shoulder Impingement: How Can I Prevent This?

By Meghan Young, DPT  

Do you ever experience shoulder pain during your work out? Those that perform overhead activities repetitively are more vulnerable to shoulder injury. A common source of shoulder pain is impingement. As you raise your arm up and reach shoulder height, the space in your shoulder becomes narrower and can rub on other structures in your shoulder. One of these structures is a major group of muscles called the rotator cuff. One of the roles of the rotator cuff is to provide the shoulder with stability. The tendons of these muscles pass through the space in the shoulder that narrows when raising your arm and can be rubbed against. The other structure that may be impinged on is the bursa which allows the rotator cuff tendons to move freely in the joint with less friction. Don't worry, shoulder impingement can be avoided!

There are several things you can do to prevent shoulder impingement during your work outs. First, keep your rotator cuff strong! This will provide the shoulder joint with more stability and minimize excess movement. This will result in improved space in your joint as you elevate you arm during overhead exercises. Second, look at your posture - both during your work out routine and throughout the day. By maintaining an upright position versus a slouched position, you can minimize impingement pain.  

Third, strengthen the muscles that run between and under your shoulder blades. This will not only help your posture but it will also allow your upper arm bone and shoulder blade to work better as a team. When they work together, there is less narrowing of the space in your shoulder joint, minimizing impingement, and decreasing pain. Fourth, make sure to get enough sleep! Adequate rest leads to healthier muscles and faster healing. And finally, be sure to warm up before your work out! Doing at least a 5-10 minute warm up will get your muscles ready for heavier and more challenging work.

Being proactive is the best way to prevent shoulder injury or prevent further injury if you already have pain. Listen to your body. If your shoulder hurts, especially with overhead exercises, address the problem so that you can continue your exercise routine safely and effectively. Happy shoulders lead to better work outs!

Helpful website with several exercises: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00663