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Shoulder Pain Without Injury?

There are SO many reasons for shoulder pain. Oftentimes, when experiencing shoulder pain, people jump to the possibility of a rotator cuff tear. Rotator cuff tears are common and something we see frequently [surgically and non-surgically] as physical therapists, but the reality is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is actually the most common disorder of the shoulder but is not as widely discussed.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome (SIS) often occurs without a specific injury, and presents with pain at the front and/or side of the shoulder. SIS is characterized by structures such as tendons or bursa getting ‘pinched’ as the arm is lifted to shoulder height. It is typically caused by overuse, but what does that really mean? Overuse could mean anything from being an overhead athlete (think pitching, swimming, volleyball, etc) to sitting at a desk with poor posture for too long, thus repetitively aggravating those same structures. Therefore, we see SIS in all age groups and populations.

In this image, you can see how small the space is where the rotator cuff tendon and the bursa are. Important factors for decreasing your risk of SIS are:

  • Maintaining good posture

  • Having a strong rotator cuff

  • Good flexibility of pec muscles

  • Good movement through spine

  • Strong trapezius muscles (check back for more on this later!)

  • Avoiding repetitive overuse of shoulder via smart sports training and cross training

The good news is, there is so much we can do to improve shoulder pain from SIS and you can get back to normal life without limitations! As previously mentioned, SIS is exceedingly common and something that we treat very often. By focusing on reducing your pain and inflammation, improving your strength, coordination, and flexibility, we can get you back to what YOU want to do, with the tools to prevent it from returning. Stay well, don’t forget to stretch, and make time for yourself to be active. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at BHPT. We’re here for you.

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