Can a shoulder impingement be treated by physical therapy?

shoulder impingement physical therapy

Having a shoulder impingement can be frustrating. In addition to chronic shoulder pain, you may experience symptoms such as muscle weakness and joint stiffness. Your pain might feel more intense when moving your arm at the shoulder. People with shoulder impingements often experience sharp aches during strenuous movements. If these sound like your symptoms, you may have a shoulder impingement. Fortunately, physical therapy can help.

Shoulder impingement is sometimes called swimmer’s shoulder. This condition happens when a tendon rubs against the shoulder blade. The affected tendons are those in the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a cluster of muscles and tendons located at the shoulder. It plays an essential role in connecting the shoulder with the arm and facilitating movement. When tendons in this area become irritated, it can limit a lot of your shoulder’s normal functions. Physical therapy can help you restore functionality and experience relief from your symptoms.

Effective physical therapy treatments for shoulder impingement


  • Flexibility exercises — Impingements are often caused by tendon irritation. An irritated tendon may swell, taking up more space and potentially rubbing against the shoulder blade. By improving your flexibility, you can ease tension and irritation throughout your shoulder. This can help reduce contact between your shoulder blade and tendons. Your physical therapist will guide you through a range of shoulder stretches. If your impingement is affecting your range of motion, these exercises can help restore it. The best exercises will depend on your physical condition and your impingement’s location. After assessing your condition, your physical therapist can work with you to develop a personalized exercise strategy.

  • Strength-building exercises — In addition to building flexibility, strengthening your muscles is also essential. Weak shoulder muscles can make your impingement worse. By improving the strength in your rotator cuff muscles, you can help increase support for your shoulder tendons. With the right exercise regimen, you can boost your shoulder stability and promote healing. Having strong shoulders can also help prevent future shoulder injuries and other harmful conditions.

  • Hot and cold therapy — Looking for a treatment technique you can use between visits? Hot and cold therapy is one great option. By applying hot elements to your shoulder, you can help your muscles relax. Cold is meant to reduce inflammation. Alternating heat and cold in the right way can be a great way to supplement your other forms of treatment. As a technique you can practice at home between visits, hot and cold therapy is a good way to maintain your progress toward recovery.

  • Posture training — When you think of the parts of your body affected by posture, you might not immediately consider your shoulders. While issues like back pain are more commonly associated with poor posture, postural issues also frequently lead to shoulder problems. Sitting or standing with poor posture can put unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders. Over time, this may lead to issues like shoulder impingement. Physical therapy can help through one-on-one posture training.

  • Manual therapy — Looking for a direct hands-on PT technique? When a physical therapist uses their hands to manipulate your joints and soft tissue, it is called manual therapy. Manual therapy is a great physical therapy method for addressing shoulder impingements. Through controlled pressure and hand motions, your physical therapist can relieve shoulder tension and improve circulation. Better circulation allows more nutrients to reach injured and irritated tissue, boosting your shoulder’s ability to heal. The benefits of manual therapy can include rapid pain relief and range-of-motion improvement.

  • Cupping Cupping is a kind of treatment designed to promote healing. Like manual therapy, cupping techniques are applied to the affected area directly. Unlike manual therapy, however, cupping involves specialized tools. These tools are heated cups. Once the cups are heated, they are placed upside down on the surface of your body. When addressing a shoulder impingement, the cups will be placed over the site of the impingement. As the air inside the cup changes, it creates a vacuum. The vacuum leads to suction, pulling your skin toward the cup. The result is a comforting effect that can improve circulation and reduce inflammation.

Address your shoulder impingement with Whatcom Physical Therapy

Ready to find relief for your shoulder impingement? At Whatcom Physical Therapy, our team is here to help. From cupping to manual therapy, we offer a range of innovative physical therapy techniques. Through one-on-one sessions and a personalized treatment plan, you can experience the benefits of a treatment provider dedicated to excellent patient care. We can help you manage your short-term symptoms and work toward long-term recovery for your shoulder.

Call us or request an appointment today for effective shoulder impingement physical therapy.