Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff muscles are pinched between the arm bone (humerus) & the shoulder blade (scapula).

Rest is essential for healing your shoulder. If an activity hurts, don’t do it. Otherwise, you may prevent healing and increase pain. Your shoulder needs active rest. This means avoiding overhead movements and activities that cause pain. But DO NOT stop using your shoulder completely. This can cause it to stiffen or “freeze.” In addition to rest, impingement can be treated a number of ways. Your health care provider can help you find which of these is best for you.


Ice reduces inflammation and relieves pain. Apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes, 3 times a day. You can also use a bag of frozen peas instead of an ice pack. A pillow placed under your arm may help make you more comfortable.

Note: Don’t put the cold item directly on your skin. Place it on top of your shirt, or wrap it in a thin towel or washcloth. Do not fall asleep with an ice bag on your shoulder, or leave the ice bag on longer than 15 minutes at a time.


To relieve pain and inflammation, try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Or, your doctor may prescribe medications. Ask how and when to take your medication. Be sure to follow all instructions you’re given.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is usually the key to alleviating shoulder impingement. Physical therapy can be ordered by your physician. The physical therapist will guide you to do exercise to strengthen the muscles in your shoulder in order to avoid impingement.   

Injection Therapy

Injection therapy may be used to help diagnose your problem. It may also be used to reduce pain. The injection typically includes two medications. One is an anesthetic to numb the shoulder. The other is cortisone to help reduce painful swelling. It can take from a few hours to a couple of days before the injection helps. Talk to your health care provider about the possible risks and benefits of this therapy.

The Sport Medicine clinic offers comprehensive care and treatment for children and adolescents with acute and chronic injuries. Call 832-22-SPORT (227-7678) for an appointment.