Shoulder Impingement

What is it?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is pain and often weakness when you raise your arm, caused by a muscle tendon “catching” in your shoulder.  It involves the rotator cuff tendon that connects the muscles in your shoulder to the top of your arm. The tendon and muscle run through a narrow space at the top of the shoulder.  In shoulder impingement syndrome, the tendon becomes trapped in this space and repeatedly scrapes against the bone above, causing pain that tends to be worse when you raise your arm over your head.  You may also experience a persistent ache in your shoulder and pain at night.

Shoulder impingement can be caused by repetitive movements or lifting overhead (overuse) with poor technique. It can be common for swimmers and tennis players and also in weights and gym work.  It can also come on gradually without any obvious cause (generally from middle age onwards).

How Pilates can help

Avoiding any overarm movements will help prevent any further inflammation or damage.  Yet while it’s important to rest the shoulder joint, you shouldn’t stop movement altogether. Inactivity will cause the muscles to weaken, which will worsen the problem and cause your shoulder to stiffen up.

Pilates ability to work areas in isolation will really help strengthen muscles around the shoulder, thinking about the correct position of the shoulder blades and correct muscle activation.  Working in a pain free zone, exercises for the arms with a resistance band such as dumb waiter will help to reactivate muscles in this area such as the rotator cuffs. While it is important to strengthen the shoulder area you will also want to stretch areas of tightness, with shoulder impingement this is often pectoral muscles and lattisimus dorsi.

As ever ensure you are working with a fully qualified and experienced Pilates teacher and seek advice from your medical practitioner as appropriate before starting any exercises.

Other sources of information

NHS.uk 



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