A: Impingement syndrome is a condition where the rotator cuff and the surrounding bursa pinch and become inflamed in the shoulder. Overhead and rotational activities are usually the cause as they force the rotator cuff tendons to rub against the upper bone in the shoulder (the acromion). Repetitive pinching of the rotator cuff and bursa causes inflammation. The tissues thicken, pinch more and the condition worsens, especially with continued overhead activities. A physical examination and X-rays help make the diagnosis. An MRI scan can be done to rule out a rotator cuff tear.
Impingement syndrome is treated with ice, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Cortisone injections can also be helpful. In a small percentage of patients, surgery may be required. Surgical treatment of impingement syndrome is performed arthroscopically as an outpatient procedure and includes cleaning out the bursa and trimming the underside of the acromion to create more room for the rotator cuff. This then stops the impingement cycle. Most patients recover well, start physical therapy within a week, and are usually back to full activities in two to three months.
Information provided by Dr. Jeffrey Davick, sports medicine, knee and shoulder surgeon, Des Moines Orthopaedic Surgeons (DMOS), 6001 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, (515) 224-5218.