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Shoulder Pain Keeping You Out of the Gym? Physical Therapy Will Get You Pain Free!

Shoulder impingement syndrome is one of the most common chronic shoulder conditions seen within outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics. Shoulder impingement occurs when the subacromial space within the anterior shoulder is narrowed resulting in pinching, wearing down, and inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons which pass through this area.

Common shoulder impingement syndrome symptoms include: pain of the anterolateral arm, pain lifting arm out to the side 90-120 degrees, pain with and/or after activity, and pain sleeping on the affected shoulder.

Causes of Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement can have multiple causes, with the most common including:

  1. Shoulder weakness: weakness of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizer muscles.
  2. Repetitive activities: such as swimming, tennis/pickleball, lifting overhead, and working overhead.
  3. Poor posture: rounded shoulders, forward head, and stiffness/tightness in the upper back and shoulders.

Physical therapy is the most effective conservative treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome, especially within the athletic population. With physical therapy, the root cause of your shoulder pain will be determined, followed by an individualized treatment approach designed for your specific deficits and goals.

Exercises for Shoulder Impingement

My favorite 3 beginner exercises for shoulder impingement include:

  1. Scapular retractions: lay face down on your bed or yoga mat, squeeze your shoulder blades back like you’re trying to pinch a coin between your shoulder blades and repeat.
  2. Pec stretch: stand in an empty corner of your room or doorway with arm at a 30 degree angle from your sides, keep chest up and looking straight ahead while leaning forward.
  3. Sidelying shoulder external rotation: lay on your affected side up and elbow bent at 90 degrees, use 1-2 pound weight and rotate up towards ceiling.

Other treatments that can be effective include: improved ergonomics, ice, and activity modification.

Just like with any condition, the quicker treatment is pursued the quicker recovery will be. Shoulder impingement tends to be a condition people live with for a long time before seeking any type of formal treatment.

If you think you may be experiencing shoulder impingement syndrome reach out to your local physical therapist. Here at Bailey Physical Therapy and Wellness, we see shoulder impingement on a weekly basis and can help get you out of pain and back in the game!


Dr. Kaitlin Bailey

PT, DPT, FMS, Cert.DN, Owner and Founder

We help active individuals and athletes conquer pain, overcome injury, and return to the activities they love through individualized, one-on-one, physical therapy and wellness services provided by a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

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