Fix Your Shoulder Pain

The Shoulder : Impingement Syndrome

Do You Have It?    What Can You Do?


Sooner or later most keen exercisers will experience pain and tenderness in their shoulder.  The pain usually lingers for weeks if not months, and the pain is usually more noticeable when performing a bench and/or overhead press, but it gets better later into the workout. Chances are someone has said that it is possibly bursitis or rotator cuff issue, and to rest and “take it easy” is the best way to treat it, but rest isn’t easy – you have to use your arms and just getting dressed can put pressure on your shoulder joint.

shoulder anatomy

Impingement syndrome results in pain, weakness, and loss of movement at the shoulder joint.

Some of the causes are:

•    Keeping your arm in the same position for a long period of time.
•    Sleeping on the same arm each night.
•    Overhead sports like tennis, swimming, and weight lifting.
•    Overhead jobs like painters.
•    Poor control of or instability in your shoulder muscles.

Early on the pain usually only happens with overhead activities and lifting the arm. Over time, the pain may start happening at night, especially when you lay on the involved side.  Pain is usually located in the front of the shoulder and may radiate to the side of the arm.  If the pain radiates past the elbow, it might be due to a pinched nerve.

Some of the details you should make available to your doctor when evaluating possible shoulder impingement include any history of previous trauma, positions that aggravate the pain, and what makes it better or worse.

Another important factor to consider is how it affects your daily activities and exercise.

What movements are the worst to perform?

Do you train your other muscles of the shoulder?

If so, how often?

Answering these questions will help your doctor to provide the correct diagnosis and the best course of action.

If you are suffering from impingement of the shoulder, the best thing to do is to rest, and stop all activities that will aggravate it. The pain and inflammation can be reduced through the use of ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation, and through the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Manual therapies such as Active Release Technique can also help in reducing inflammation.  For severe cases, a corti-costeroid injection may be necessary to relieve discomfort.

A stretching program should also be implemented to increase flexibility.  Stretching should include the posterior shoulder, the chest and front shoulder, triceps, and biceps.


The Sleeper Stretch is an excellent stretch for impingement.

This is one your should try – do it morning and evening and see if it helps…

sleeper stretch shoulder


How to do the Sleeper Stretch

Performing a sleeper stretch

–          Make sure that you are NOT laying flat on your back and shoulder blade

–          You want to lay mostly on your rib cage and the outside border of your scapula. – Your arm should be 90 degrees from your torso with the palm of your hand facing the ground.

–          Gently push down at your wrist until you feel a mild stretch on your posterior shoulder and hold for 30 seconds.

–          Do this for about 3 reps.

–          You should NOT feel anything in the front of your shoulder

–          Do not push too hard.

–          Your hand is not supposed to touch the ground.

–          GOAL – feel a mild stretch in the back of the shoulder and hold the position.

[Laudner, Kevin G PhD, ATC., Sipes, Robert C, ATC, CSCS., Wilson, James T, ATC, CSCS. (2008). The Acute Effects of Sleeper Stretches on Shoulder Range of Motion. Journal of Athletic Training. 43(3): 359-363]

Rest and avoid overhead workouts are the best way to treat impingement syndrome, along with regular stretching, and myofascial release techniques the symptoms should alleviate sooner.  Remember, if you are experiencing pain, seek the help of a health care specialist; it WON’T just “go away” on its own.

1.   Fongemie AE, Buss DD, Rolnick SJ. (1998). Management of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome and Rotator Cuff Tears”. American Family Physician 57: 667–74, 680–2.
3.     Kirchhoff, Choldwig., Imhoff, Andreas B. (2010) Posteriosuperior and anterosuperior impingment of the shoulder in overhead athletes – evolving concepts”. International Orthopaedics. 34(7): 1049-1058.


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