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Shoulder Impingement Physical Therapy

Shoulder Impingement Physical Therapy

Shoulder impingement, also known as subacromial impingement, rotator cuff tendinitis, or swimmer's shoulder, is a common cause of shoulder pain. It occurs when there is impingement of the rotator cuff tendons under the acromion process of the scapula. 

This impingement leads to inflammation and irritation of the rotator cuff tendons and bursa, causing especially noticeable pain during overhead arm movements. 

Physical therapy can be an extremely effective treatment approach for shoulder impingement.

At Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora, expert therapists comprehensively address these factors. In this article, we will discuss how to treat shoulder impingement physical therapy, including its efficacy, available methods of treatment, and the advantages of seeing a doctor.

Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

The most common symptom of shoulder impingement is pain in the front or side of the shoulder joint that worsens when raising the arm overhead, reaching behind the back, or lying on the affected shoulder. 

The pain is often described as a dull, aching sensation deep in the shoulder. Other symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness directly over the acromion process
  • Pain that radiates down the outside of the upper arm  
  • Difficulty sleeping on the affected side
  • Stiffness and decreased range of motion, especially overhead
  • Crepitus (crackling sensation) when moving the shoulder
  • Weakness and fatigue in the shoulder and arm

The pain and other symptoms often develop gradually over time. Many patients report that it started after a change in activity, such as increasing overhead work or taking up a new sport. Symptoms are usually worse with overhead activities and get better at rest.

Causes of Shoulder Impingement

There are several factors that can contribute to shoulder impingement:

Anatomical Factors

  • Hooked acromion bone shape
  • Bone spurs or calcium deposits
  • Thickened or calcified shoulder ligaments

Poor Shoulder Biomechanics

  • Rotator cuff muscle weakness
  • Poor posture, like rounded shoulders
  • Overuse from repetitive overhead activities
  • Previous shoulder injury

Other Factors

  • Increasing age
  • A sudden increase in exercise intensity

Does Physical Therapy Help Shoulder Impingement?

Yes, physical therapy is crucial in treating shoulder impingement at Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora. Through a comprehensive evaluation, therapists identify the involved shoulder structures and design tailored treatment plans. 

These plans address unique contributing factors such as weakness, inflexibility, overuse, and poor mechanics, aiming to restore pain-free shoulder mobility and strength.

Therapists utilize various techniques, including targeted exercises to improve range of motion and enhance muscle stability, manual therapies like joint mobilizations to enhance mobility, and modalities such as ice and heat to alleviate pain and inflammation. 

Personalized education on proper shoulder mechanics, postural corrections, and gradual return-to-activity programs are integral to the therapy.

At Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora, specialized equipment and expert guidance are employed to strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular muscles effectively. Through a combination of education, exercise, manual therapy, and modalities, patients often find relief without surgery. 

For those experiencing persistent symptoms, the dedicated team at Physical Therapy Advantage provides individualized plans aiming to alleviate pain and restore full shoulder function promptly.

Physical Therapy Examination 

The first step in shoulder impingement treatment physical therapy is performing a comprehensive evaluation. Your physical therapist will ask about your medical history, shoulder symptoms, daily activities, sports participation, work demands, and previous treatments. 

They will also perform an in-depth examination of the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles. Key elements of the physical exam include:


Your therapist will look closely at your posture and the way you move your shoulder joint through various motions. They look for impairments like muscle atrophy, swelling, asymmetry, or scapular winging. 


By feeling the structures around the shoulder, the therapist checks for areas of tenderness, swelling, muscle tightness, trigger points, and warmth that could indicate inflammation.

Range of Motion

Active, passive, and resisted motions are evaluated. Your therapist will look for limitations in flexion, internal/external rotation, abduction, and other planes that could point to capsular tightness or weakness.

Strength Testing

Manual muscle testing helps determine areas of rotator cuff or scapular weakness or imbalance that could be contributing to impingement. 

Special Tests

Specific tests like the Neer impingement sign, Hawkins-Kennedy test, and Empty Can test can help confirm the diagnosis.

Functional Assessment

Your ability to perform activities of daily living and work/sports tasks will be evaluated. Your therapist may videotape your movements for further analysis.

After the examination, your physical therapist will determine if shoulder therapy in Aurora is appropriate and share their evaluation findings. If further medical assessment is needed, they will communicate that to your physician as well.

Common Physical Therapy Interventions

Following an accurate diagnosis, your physical therapist at Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora creates a personalized treatment plan for shoulder impingement. This plan focuses on restoring pain-free mobility, correcting muscle imbalances, and improving biomechanics. 

Interventions include patient education on impingement management, therapeutic exercises tailored to enhance stability and flexibility, manual therapies like joint mobilization, and modalities such as ice and heat for pain relief. 

Taping or bracing supports the shoulder during activities, ensuring proper mechanics. The therapist guides your gradual return to daily activities, incorporating tasks simulating real-life scenarios and providing necessary restrictions or modifications.

Customized Home Exercise Program

A critical part of recovery from shoulder impingement involves continuing your rehabilitation exercises at home. Doing exercises consistently at home maximizes your progress between physical therapy visits. 

Your therapist will prescribe and demonstrate specific stretches and strengthening exercises tailored to your needs. They will ensure you understand how to correctly perform each exercise before the next visit. 

Home exercises typically focus on key areas, including:

Rotator cuff strengthening

The rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis) help stabilize the shoulder joint. Strengthening them relieves impingement. 

Scapular stability

Exercises that target the shoulder blades improve scapulohumeral rhythm and enhance shoulder mechanics.


 Stretches and exercises that promote proper upright posture reduce impingement of the shoulder.


Stretches for the shoulder joint capsule, chest muscles, posterior shoulder, and rotator cuff improve restricted motion and achieve full mobility.


Balance and control exercises enhance neuromuscular control for optimal shoulder function. 

Simulating function

Your therapist may have you practice specific work tasks or sports motions to improve performance and mechanics.

Closely following your prescribed home program will get you back to full activity faster. Make sure to track your exercises and any symptoms in a journal to discuss with your therapist at the next visit. 

They can then adjust your program as needed. Consistency with the home exercise program is key for maximum results.

Physical Therapy Duration

Each case of shoulder impingement is unique, so the number of physical therapy visits and duration of treatment will vary. 

Less involved cases may resolve within 4-6 weeks of focused physical therapy. More chronic, severe cases often take 10-12 weeks to successfully rehabilitate.

Factors that influence the length of physical therapy include:

  • Cause and severity of the impingement
  • Presence of other shoulder pathology  
  • Duration of symptoms
  • Age and overall health
  • Occupation and sport/activity demands
  • Adherence to the home exercise program
  • Response to the prescribed treatments

Your physical therapist will be able to give you a general estimate for how long does shoulder impingement last physical therapy help it should take to relieve your shoulder pain and regain full function. 

They will tailor your program based on your specific impairments, goals, and rate of progress. With your active participation, physical therapy can often resolve shoulder impingement relatively quickly and avoid surgery.

Prevention Tips

To prevent shoulder impingement, maintain proper posture, stretch, and strengthen shoulder muscles regularly.

Warm up before activities, use correct lifting techniques, and gradually increase intensity in overhead motions. Avoid repetitive overhead tasks and take breaks, varying body position. Promptly address minor shoulder pain to prevent serious injury. 

Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora offers personalized exercise programs and can provide taping or bracing if needed. 

Being mindful of shoulder health and swift response to warning signs can prevent prolonged recovery. Skilled physical therapy can non-operatively resolve impingement, ensuring a safe return to activity.

When to See a Doctor?

Consult your physician for persistent shoulder pain lasting over 1-2 weeks, disrupting sleep, hindering daily activities, or following an injury. Seek medical evaluation if pain is accompanied by arm/hand weakness, numbness, tingling, or spread to the arm and elbow. 

Prompt assessment is crucial to rule out serious conditions like rotator cuff tears or pinched nerves. Imaging tests may be recommended. Physicians often refer to physical therapy for conservative rehabilitation following diagnosis.


Shoulder impingement is a common source of shoulder pain that develops from poor mechanics, overuse, and weakness. Physical therapy in Aurora IL, involving exercise, hands-on treatment, and patient education, can successfully treat most cases of shoulder impingement. 

A customized home exercise program maximizes outcomes. With appropriate physical therapy, shoulder impingement can usually be resolved quickly without surgery.

Physical Therapy Advantage in Aurora can provide you with a personalized treatment plan for your shoulder impingement. Their expert therapists are committed to assisting you in regaining pain-free shoulder motion and your confidence in routine tasks. Take the initial step towards rehabilitation under the supervision of a qualified physical therapist; don't let shoulder impingement limit your life.

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