A pinch of this, a dash of that…

Pinching in the shoulder, a phenomenon usually attributed to impingement, is an incredibly common complaint among those people who have shoulder pain.  Impingement is typically believed to be caused by some structure (typically a tendon) being “pinched” as the shoulder moves around.  This pinching is most common when elevating the arm, especially at or above shoulder height.

Shoulder impingement can be pretty debilitating to people for a variety of reasons.  Impingement is typically highly painful, which is a great way to dissuade people from using that arm for activities, even if they’re relatively basic.  Impingement doesn’t always happen consistently either, which can lead to some fear or avoidance to using that arm because it becomes unreliable.

So how do you go about fixing shoulder impingement?  As mentioned above, the way the shoulder moves will significantly affect the probability of something being pinched.  The shoulder blade has to elevate enough to make room for the rest of the arm (the humerus), so improving the mechanics of the shoulder blade is often a focus with impingement.  Improving range of motion in the shoulder joint itself is also really important to make sure that the shoulder joint is leaving enough space for all those structures around the shoulder joint.

Here are a few exercises for shoulder impingement:

  • Self Shoulder Joint Mobilization – The key here is to do this lightly in short, steady pulses.  Slow steady holds aren’t likely to do much and are likely to just irritate the shoulder and those soft tissues.  30-60 seconds is plenty of time for this one.  Check the link the to make sure you’re doing it right!
  • Shoulder Rows – Focus on what your shoulder blade does.  Think about trying to pinch your shoulder blade back to the middle of spine when you bring your elbow back, but make sure you aren’t twisting through your trunk.  Choose a weight that lets you do at least 10 solid reps but no more than 20 (otherwise the weight is too light).
  • Pec Stretches – Tight pectorals are likely to pull your shoulder and shoulder blade into positions that aren’t super helpful for trying to reach overhead, so stretch them out!  As with the rows, try to get your shoulder blades moving towards the middle of your spine – this makes sure you’re stretching your pecs (chest) instead of the shoulder joint.  Try 30-60 second holds.

This is a pretty basic starting list of exercises that should reduce that pinching feeling in your achy shoulder.  If these don’t work, you’ll likely need a more thorough examination to identify and address what’s going on.  Physical therapists and occupational therapists are the go-to providers for treating something like shoulder impingement, so if you need more help, give one a call!

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless. Contact us to connect with on of our PTs. Or follow us on Facebook.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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