Shoulder impingement is caused by pressure on the supraspinatus tendon by the scapula as the arm is lifted at or above shoulder height. As the arm is lifted, the acromion of the scapula presses on the surface of the rotator cuff tendon. This limits movement and causes pain and weakness. Shoulder impingement is common in older adults due to the increased likelihood of thoracic kyphosis and protracted scapulae. These anatomical positions serve to decrease the subacromial space through which the supraspinatus tendon can pass on its way to the humeral insertion. The compressed space leads to soft-tissue injury. These issues are traced to a number of different factors including repetitive lifting, shoulder trauma, or bone spurs from osteoarthritis.


In advanced cases, shoulder impingement can lead to the development of frozen shoulder where virtually all movement at the shoulder causes pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, treatment for shoulder impingement can include a number of strategies including rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and surgery.





These exercise EXAMPLES are INFORMATION ONLY and are not intended to be instruction, advice, or incorporated into any individual exercise program. Use of or experimentation with any of the EXAMPLE EXCERCISES will be solely at your own risk. Always consult a Physician before beginning any exercise program.



Exercise Recommendations for Shoulder Impingement:


Avoid any exercises specifically contraindicated by a physician or physical therapist.

Avoid exercises that include overhead reaching movements, particularly with an external load.

This will increase pressure on the supraspinatus tendon and further irritate the condition.

Improve posture and use integrated flexibility exercises for the chest and neck to improve extension. 

Use thoracic spine mobilization exercises to improve thoracic spine extension, load the scapular stabilizers, and establish more optimal length-tension relationships between muscles that affect the scapula.




©2014 NASM National Academy of Sports Medicine