Most people that participate in overhead sports, racket sports, or lift overhead will experience some form of shoulder impingement pain. Welcome to the club! And it’s easy to get confused on why some motions hurt, but some do not. Most of the time the body will heal itself and no imaging will be required. Fun fact, there is not so great correlation between imaging and pain. Below are some tips to get you back in the game or gym quicker!

Improve the strength, ENDURANCE, and STABILITY of the rotator cuff muscles


A more common target when people get shoulder pain is for people to immediately blame is the rotator cuff. You may be targeting it in the wrong way. The overall role of the rotator cuff is stability of the joint, so as you move your shoulder/arm these muscles keep it nice and snug in its socket. While strengthening does need to occur using resistance it is more beneficial to work on the endurance of this group with light weights and more reps. Meaning, no need to grab a twenty pound dumbbell and start breaking out external rotations. Using resistance bands and lighter weight, like 2.5 lbs to 5 lbs, is all you need to get started. Another way to target the stability and endurance is to work with overhead carries and waiter carries. These forms of exercise challenge the rotator cuff and shoulder muscles’ endurance. Same as the scapular strengtheners, these should not be painful, but try and get that burn from fatigue! With a strong rotator cuff, you are one step closer to finding relief from shoulder impingement pain.

Control the volume of the painful motion

Let’s say the pain started during a game or workout. You could probably tell when and what made your shoulder pain start. As long as you can still lift and move it; you are in a good spot. One of the easiest modifications for pain is to decrease the amount of swings, reps, etc. by 25-50%. Another aspect of volume is sports specific. Decreasing the weight, but keeping the same reps or keeping the same weight and decreasing the reps are two alternative potential solutions for the same problem. Subbing out an exercise for a more strict form, push jerk to a strict dumbbell press, will naturally decrease the weight and may allow you to keep the reps up, or close to the normal workout. Or, playing only in the back row and serving for one to two games may be enough of a break to go back to the front row when playing volleyball. Giving your body more time to recover is important, decreasing the painful activity is as well. All out rest may be needed, but starting here may be just enough to keep you moving, in the gym, or on the court. 

Strengthen those unknown, important muscles

The scapular stabilizers are an underworked muscle group in your workout routine. These muscles are very important for swinging overhead, control, and pushing weight overhead, sometimes called scapular retractors and elevators. Including exercises such as Ts and Ys, dumbbell rows, and reverse flys in your routine pre or post injury can make your return even faster. These motions should not be painful when completing these exercises or afterwards!

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Practice technique to stop shoulder impingement pain

The technique of your movement is super important to help stop shoulder impingement pain. Most of our patients admit that pain started after playing too many sports games in a day or more high reps (with moderate to high loads) of a specific movement. Both examples involve some level of fatigue. Technique both physical and mental endurance, regardless of sport or lift. Recording yourself, having a mirror, or having a friend watch and provide feedback are some easy options. Part and whole practice is another form of technique work that sometimes gets overlooked, but can shine a lot on where you may hinder yourself as you fatigue. Breaking a movement or lift down is something you can ask your coach to help with. And don’t forget about us, your friendly neighborhood specialists here at P3!

Pain can be used to your benefit!?

As with most musculoskeletal injuries, pain can be helpful in guiding return to sport and exercise. The “2 point rule” is an effective, self-driven guideline to keep you moving; remember movement is medicine. This is based on a zero to ten scale of pain and you should never start or end at a five out of ten! This rule allows you two points of discomfort during and after your activity. If you go more than that, you know that you are not ready for that exercise, movement, or weight. Shoulder pain does not mean stop, it means change what you are doing.

Are you ready end to Shoulder Impingement Pain?

Hopefully these 5 tips on to get rid of shoulder impingement pain give you the push you need to get started on the road to recovery.  If you encounter pain that keeps you from staying consistent with your workouts or stops you from training altogether, reach to us for a Free Phone Consultation with one of doctors at Peak Physiotherapy and Performance so we can keep you training during rehab.

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