Subacromial Shoulder Pain

Subacromial shoulder pain, also known as subacromial impingement syndrome, is a frequent cause of shoulder discomfort and disability. It occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff and the subacromial bursa are pinched in the small space beneath the acromion, leading to pain and restricted shoulder movement.

Symptoms

Subacromial shoulder pain usually presents with:

  • Continuous pain in the shoulder, particularly when lifting the arm
  • Weakness in the shoulder muscles
  • Pain that worsens at night, affecting sleep
  • Restricted range of motion in the shoulder
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks such as dressing or driving

Diagnosis

To diagnose subacromial shoulder pain, healthcare professionals typically:

  • Conduct a physical examination, testing shoulder movement and pain
  • Order imaging tests, including X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI, to visualise the shoulder’s structure and rule out other conditions

Prevention

Preventing subacromial shoulder pain primarily revolves around maintaining shoulder strength and flexibility through regular exercise. Avoiding overuse, particularly of activities involving overhead arm movements, can also be beneficial.

Treatment

Treatment for subacromial shoulder pain aims to alleviate discomfort and restore normal shoulder function. The main types of treatment include:

  • Physiotherapy: Therapeutic exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder muscles and restore mobility.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help manage pain and inflammation.
  • Steroid Injections: A corticosteroid injection into the shoulder can reduce inflammation and pain, improving shoulder movement.
  • Subacromial Decompression Surgery: This type of surgery involves widening the space where the rotator cuff tendons move, relieving pressure and reducing pain. It can be performed arthroscopically, being less invasive and promoting a quicker recovery.