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Shoulder Impingement

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Care

Your shoulder is a complex, ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones–your humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). The ball of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket (called the glenoid) in your shoulder bone, which is filled with strong cartilage that works to cushion your shoulder joint and add stability. Your rotator cuff is part of the combination of muscles and tendons that keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. If your rotator cuff is irritated or damaged, it can make everyday activities incredibly difficult.

The orthopedic surgeons at Rochester Regional Health’s Upper Extremity Program are experts at diagnosing and treating shoulder impingements. With their comprehensive, individualized care, we’ll get you back in action in no time.

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What is a Shoulder Impingement?

There is a lubricating sac, called the bursa, that lives between your rotator cuff and the top of your shoulder. This jelly-like sac reduces friction and allows your rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when your arm is moved. Our shoulders have a great range of motion and are made up of many different parts, but that also means they’re prone to a wide variety of problems.

Your rotator cuff can be in pain as the result of:

  • Bursitis: when your bursa become inflamed and swell with more fluid, causing pain
  • Impingement: the space between the bone at the top of your shoulder (acromion) and rotator cuff narrows when you raise your arm to shoulder height, and the acromion rubs against the bursa and the tendon, causing pain and irritation
  • Tendinitis: when the rotator cuff tendons become damaged or irritated

Symptoms of Impingement

If you are suffering from a rotator cuff injury, the pain usually causes tenderness in the front and the side of your shoulder. When you lift your arm, you may experience pain and stiffness, or other symptoms including:

  • Minor pain that is present when active and when resting
  • Pain radiating from the front of your shoulder or the side of your arm
  • Pain when throwing something in the air
  • Sudden pain when lifting or reaching

As your rotator cuff issue progresses, your symptoms will increase. This typically results in:

  • Difficulty performing activities like buttoning or zippering clothes
  • Loss of motion and strength
  • Pain at night

People who do repetitive lifting, use their arms overhead for sports like baseball, swimming, and tennis, or perform overhead activities like construction, painting, and paper hanging are susceptible to rotator cuff pain. You may also experience pain for no explainable reason, or as the result of a minor injury.

Treating Shoulder Impingement

For most, the initial treatment for shoulder impingement is non-surgical. Your physician may recommend rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (called NSAIDS), injections, or physical therapy.


Avoiding certain activities, especially those that cause you to reach overhead, may go a long way in relieving your symptoms. If you have any concerns with the activity modifications your physician gives you, please ask during your appointment and talk through any additional modifications you may require.

Physical Therapy

We have highly-skilled, knowledgeable physical therapists throughout Rochester and Western New York. Your physician will connect you with one nearby who will focus on restoring normal motion to your shoulder. They will suggest specific stretching exercises or a program to help you restore movement, improve flexibility and strength, and provide relief from uncomfortable symptoms.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen may help relieve some of your pain and swelling. If you have been using an NSAID for more than a month, please speak to your doctor before continuing use, especially if you develop acid reflux or stomach pains.


If rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications do not help with your pain, an injection may help relieve your symptoms.

For some, non-surgical options will not conquer your rotator cuff problems. Luckily, surgical options abound.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery can create more room for the soft tissues in your shoulder that are being squeezed. Your options for shoulder impingement include bursectomy, rotator cuff repair, and subacromial decompression, and acromioplasty.


This procedure will remove your inflamed bursa and any surrounding scar tissue. After it’s removed, a new bursa may grow in its place because our bodies are very cool.

Rotator Cuff Repair

This procedure may reattach torn tendons to their usual attachment site on the upper humerus bone.

Most commonly, our orthopedic surgeons utilize minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques to repair rotator cuffs. They’ll make multiple small incisions around your shoulder area and see into the area using an arthroscope, which is a small device that is equipped with a camera. The type of surgery utilized in your treatment will depend on the severity of your injury and any underlying medical or structural conditions.

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Get Back in Action

If shoulder impingement is causing you pain, our expert orthopedic surgeons will have you back in action in no time. From non-surgical to surgical treatments, we will craft an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and goals.
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