Shoulder impingement is a common cause of pain and discomfort in the shoulder, but there’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of it by that name — instead, this condition is often referred to as swimmer’s shoulder, tennis shoulder, or thrower’s shoulder.
Regardless of the name by which you know it, shoulder impingement almost always stems from bone spurs. These jagged protrusions usually develop after the repeated rubbing or pressure caused by sports such as swimming and tennis, gradually narrowing the space between the acromion and humerus bones as they grow. As a result, the tendons or bursae of the shoulder get caught between the two bones, resulting in pain, weakness, and discomfort.
Like many issues affecting the tendons, shoulder impingement is often treated with arthroscopic surgery. To help you understand what this entails, our own Dr. Leon Popovitz — an expert in the procedure — breaks down the process.
DIAGNOSING SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT
Shoulder impingement is usually diagnosed after the specialist has reviewed the patient’s history and conducted a physical exam. As with any orthopedic condition, be sure to thoroughly describe your symptoms to your doctor during the initial exam. Your doctor will likely take an X-ray or MRI to confirm the diagnosis, locate the bone spurs, and assess the extent of the damage to the tendons and rotator cuff.
Should you suffer from shoulder impingement, your orthopedic specialist will begin by prescribing some conservative treatments such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicine, and cortisone injections. If bone spurs are present, however, the impingement may need to be treated with arthroscopic surgery, since bone spurs can cause lasting damage to the rotator cuff if left unattended.
Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure during which the surgeon makes several small incisions into the shoulder, inserting a tiny telescope through one of these incisions to better view the joint while operating on it through another. Depending on the cause and extent of the impingement, your surgeon may shave any bone spurs, remove damaged cartilage or bursae, repair tears in the rotator cuff, and reshape the subacromial space to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
Since arthroscopy is usually an outpatient procedure, patients can return home on the day of the operation, but they will need to wear a sling for a few days following surgery. As soon as you can remove your sling, you’ll begin a physical therapy program designed to redevelop the muscles in the shoulder and restore regular function. Any pain should largely subside after two weeks, and most patients will fully recover after six to eight weeks of rehabilitation.
Interested in learning more about shoulder impingement? Read more about the condition and how it’s treated here. If you’re considering arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Popovitz and our team at New York Bone & Joint Specialists are here to help. Our full-service practice can help you through the whole process, from diagnosis to recovery. Call today to schedule a consultation!