What Exercises to Avoid With Shoulder Impingement

The shoulders are an integral, complex part of the body that often experiences pain or injuries, such as shoulder impingement. There are both shoulder impingement exercises to avoid as well as shoulder impingement exercises for a full rehabilitation program.

Shoulder impingement issues or injuries may take three to six months to fully heal. (Image: yoh4nn/E+/GettyImages)


Shoulder impingement issues or injuries may take three to six months to fully heal.

Anatomy of Your Shoulders

According to The American Council on Exercise, the shoulder is made up of the integrated actions of four joints. ACE Fitness explains these as the sternoclavicular joint, the acromioclavicular joint, the glenohumeral joint and the scapulothoracic joint. The shoulder has the ability to move in three planes of motion, which includes sagittal, frontal and transverse movements. Because the shoulder is mobile and has a unique structure of bone, muscle and tendon, the shoulder can also be very susceptible to injury.

In most parts of the body, the bones are surrounded by muscles. The shoulder, however, is an exception, as the muscles and tendons within it are surrounded by bone. The rotator cuff is unique in that it is a group of muscles and tendons located underneath the arm bone and on top of the acromioclavicular joint. The rotator cuff is used to lift the arm up overhead. This intricate arrangement of muscle and tendon between bones may lead to the development of shoulder impingement syndrome.

Signs of Shoulder Impingement

The Cleveland Clinic explains impingement syndrome of the shoulder as an injury to the muscles between the bones in the shoulder area, closely related to shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tendinitis. Signs of a shoulder impingement may include weakness in the shoulder, pain when the arms are extended above the head or difficulty reaching up behind the back.

When injured, the rotator cuff swells, and because it is surrounded by bone this can cause increased pressure within the tendon, which can cause pain that feels worse when lifting arms upward or behind the back.

Shoulder Impingement Healing Tips

The Mayo Clinic recommends treating shoulder impingement syndrome with ice, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy exercises. Regaining strength, mobility and range of motion is key to healing an impinged shoulder, and there are exercises that can be done even with a separated shoulder or a torn labrum.

Shoulder Impingement Exercises to Avoid

When recovering from shoulder impingement, you should steer clear of any activities that involve overhead movements, such as throwing a ball, or specific weight training at the gym like overhead presses and pull downs. Be mindful to focus on the alignment of your shoulders and arms, keeping your elbows relatively close to the body when performing seated or standing exercises to prevent adding additional stress to the shoulders. Opt for exercises in which you can work on the shoulders independently, such as free weights or dumbbells. Also be sure to include yoga stretches that improve flexibility, range of motion and shoulder mobility.

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