Shoulder impingement syndrome, also called swimmer’s shoulder or thrower’s shoulder, is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. It occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become impinged, or pinched, as they pass through the shoulder joint.

Impingement syndrome often follows injury to a rotator cuff tendon, but may come on gradually as a result of a rotator cuff that is not working properly or activities with repetitive overhead motions, such as throwing a baseball, swimming the butterfly, serving a tennis ball, or simply painting a wall.

Individuals with impingement syndrome often complain of these symptoms:

  • Pain in the front and on the side of the shoulder
  • Pain or weakness when reaching overhead, out to the side, or behind the body
  • Pain with pushing, pulling or throwing motions
  • Pain and discomfort when attempting to sleep on the affected side
  • Pain and stiffness radiating down the arm


If you have any of these symptoms, consult with a shoulder specialist at Lancaster Orthopedic Group. He or she will evaluate your symptoms, assess your shoulder strength and motion, and may obtain an X-ray or an MRI to identify other conditions that could be contributing to your discomfort, such as bone spurs or abnormalities, or arthritis.

Conservative treatment for impingement syndrome consists of anti-inflammatory medications, ice, and resting the shoulder until the symptoms subside. If there is no rotator cuff tear, a cortisone injection may help decrease the inflammation. Physical therapy may also help strengthen the rotator cuff tendons. If these treatments do not result in improvement, surgical intervention may be recommended.