Shoulder Impingement and how
Physical Therapy can help
By Dr. Zainab Kothari PT, DPT, MS
Traditionally, patients with shoulder pain who had symptoms associated with reaching overhead, to the side, and behind their backs were told that their rotator cuff tendon / tendons are getting “pinched” due to reduce space in their joints resulting in their symptoms. How can we know for certain that a particular movement is “pinching or damaging” a tendon from clinical examination without undergoing specialized imaging while the shoulder joint is moving? MRIs and X-rays do not do a good job of telling us why a person has pain with movement.
However, we do know that shoulder impingement can easily be addressed and treated by your Physical Therapist. Many believe that a small sub acromial space in their shoulder joint causes rotator cuff damage, pain, and weakness. A lot of studies have proven that the size of this space is not any different in those with or without pain. Instead, the size of this space is an indication of the health of the rotator cuff. It was noted by Scmidt et al (2021) that the stronger and healthier your rotator cuff is, the larger and bigger the sub acromial space is. As Physical Therapists, we can help patients work on improving the strength of their rotator cuff which can eventually help increase the sub acromial space and improve shoulder movement, mechanics, and function.
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