Shoulder Pain : Rotator Cuff Impingement Pt 2

Impingement of the rotator cuff feels like a short, sharp(ish) pain in the shoulder, in what we call as physios, a ‘painful arc’.

This means that your shoulder pain will catch at a certain point in shoulder movement and is usually pain-free the rest of the time.

What Is A ‘Painful Arc’

Stand with your arm down beside you and your hand next to your hip.

Keeping your elbow straight, move your arm up and out to the side, then all the way up to the sky so that your arm is now beside your ear.

If you have a painful arc, it means that as your start the movement, you are pain-free, then your pain will likely catch when your arm is just above the height of your shoulder, and then the pain releases off again as it moves closer towards your ear.

What You Can Do To Help Your Impingement Pain

As mentioned in “Shoulder Pain : Rotator Cuff Impingemnt Part 1“, this condition if left untreated can lead tendinopathy and even bursitis. Use pain as a guide and stop painful activities while you are seeking treatment and rehabilitating from this injury.

At home try the following

  • Sleeping on your non affected side, your back or rest your arm on a pillow if it’s sore to have it resting by your side
  • Limit activities where your arm is above shoulder height as this is the range that will cause pain (eg hang your clothes on a clothes horse rather than the line)
  • Avoid repetitive work with the arm (eg washing the windows or car) while you are rehabilitating
  • Take care with heavy weight baring through the arm and use pain as a guide (eg if push ups hurt your shoulder, avoid these while rehabilitating)
  • Leaning heavily on your elbow for long periods might hurt your shoulder so take care with this
  • Be mindful to keep good, upright posture with an open chest

When To Seek Physiotherapy Treatment

For some conditions, it is okay to use a ‘wait and see approach’.

However, with a shoulder impingement, we recommend early treatment as treating it while it is in this stage is much faster and easier than if it becomes a chronic injury.

If you are experiencing this painful arc, we recommend to to see your physio so they can diagnose you correctly and start you on early treatment and shoulder alignment exercises straight away.


Want to read more about Rotator Cuff Impingement – click here for Part 1

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