Shoulder Impingement


Shoulder impingement syndrome is a common cause of shoulder pain. Impingement occurs when the bones in the shoulder cause excessive squeezing or rubbing of shoulder tendons or the bursa, the lubricating sac that covers the rotator cuff. This can cause inflammation and, if not treated appropriately, may lead to a torn rotator cuff.

Patients seeking treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome can find world-class care from the shoulder team at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). Recognized as a premier provider of medical and surgical orthopaedic treatment, our staff of experienced specialists offers access to the latest techniques and procedures to repair shoulders, relieve pain, improve mobility and increase quality of life.

Symptoms of shoulder impingement

Symptoms of impingement syndrome include:

  • Weakness of the shoulder muscles
  • Pain with overhead use of the arm
  • Difficulty of reaching up behind back

Treatment for impingement syndrome

Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen are the most common treatment for impingement syndrome. It may take six to eight weeks for the medicine to alleviate the problem. Daily stretching in a warm shower and avoiding repetitive overhead activity for a period of time may also help improve the condition. The vast majority of patients with impingement syndrome are successfully treated through these techniques.

Impingement may also be treated with physical therapy, using exercise to strengthen muscle, increase stability, improve range of motion, and stretch out the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint.

If impingement symptoms persist, physicians may recommend an injection of cortisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory, or perform an ultrasound or MRI to determine whether the rotator cuff has been torn, which may require rotator cuff surgery to repair it.

Impingement treatment at BWH

The BWH shoulder team offers a staff of experienced specialists who collaborate with the Harvard Shoulder Service, the Advanced Center for Cartilage Repair, Cartilage Repair Center, Shoulder & Sports Injuries (ACCSS) and Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service to provide our patients with comprehensive, innovative and expert shoulder care.

In addition to treatment for impingement, our services include:

  • Joint replacement revision
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Rotator cuff and labrum repair
  • Joint preservation
  • Shoulder fracture reduction/fixation
  • Shoulder instability
  • Shoulder repair
  • Tendon transfers
  • Nerve injuries involving the shoulder

Find a physician for shoulder impingement treatment

To find a physician who can treat shoulder impingement syndrome, and provide other orthopaedic treatment such as carpal tunnel surgery or treatment for ankylosing spondylitis, call 1-800-294-9999, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more now about the comprehensive medical services available at BWH. In addition to orthopaedic specialists, such as a sports medicine physician, patients looking for weight loss surgery options, cardiology specialists, neurosurgeons and more can use the Find a Doctor feature on our website to search for physicians in other specialties. You can also search for a specialist by specific location, such as an internal medicine physician in Cambridge, an OBGYN expert in Brookline or a Boston hand surgeon.

Learn more about Impingement and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH