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Trouble pulling on a shirt or hooking a bra?

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By: Rachel Herrmann, DPT, PT

One of the most common shoulder issues is impingement. It is common among the general adult population as well as in overhead athletes such as swimmers and throwing athletes.  Impingement is when there is a pinching of the rotator cuff muscles in between the top of the humerus bone they attach to and the acromion process, a bony prominence from the shoulder blade that makes a bony roof over the ball and socket joint of the shoulder. This pinching can be caused by and aggravated by a few different factors that include:

  • Instability of the shoulder:
    • Static instability which may be due to general ligamentous joint laxity (such as people who are “double-jointed” in their shoulder), people with a history of shoulder subluxations or dislocations, and people with a history of labral tears.
    • Dynamic instability which is due to muscle weakness, and poor muscle control.
  • Rounded shoulder posture.
  • Frequent repetitive or prolonged overhead reaching.
  • Degenerative changes such as bone spurs along the bottom surface of the acromion process.
  • Anatomical differences in shape of the acromion process. Some people have a more curved vs. flatter shape to this bone. A more curved shape will increase the risk of impingement.

If you have shoulder impingement you may find yourself having pain with the following basic movements: reaching overhead, reaching behind your back, reaching across to your other shoulder. This may then affect your ability to get dressed (donning a button-up shirt/sweater/jacket, hooking your bra, or looping the belt through the back of your pants), reaching up to wash or dry your hair and lifting the arm up to get dishes in and out of the cupboards.

If left unaddressed shoulder impingement can contribute to further, more severe shoulder issues such as rotator cuff tendinitis or even rotator cuff tears. Movement compensations are also common when one has shoulder impingement can also end up leading to headaches, neck pain and muscle tension.

The good thing is that physical therapy can help with impingement by providing postural re-training, stretching and manual treatment to address tight, restricted  muscles affected posture, and by working on strength and stabilization exercises for the shoulder blade and rotator cuff muscles.  A physical therapist can also work on educating you on how to correct or modify your movements throughout the day or with certain activities in order to help limit or avoid the positions that will reproduce impingement.

If these pains sound familiar, don’t keep working through the pain and hoping it will go away on its own. Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center TODAY at 703-450-4300 and schedule an appointment with on of our physical therapist. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

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