With action in spring sports now getting underway, most involved athletes are primed to rush out of the gates and push themselves—and their teams—towards a successful season. While this eager spirit is certainly welcomed and crucial for morale, it’s also important to remember that every athlete has limits. For baseball players, and especially pitchers, training too hard and too fast is a recipe for shoulder pain in Springfield. Many players develop a condition called shoulder impingement as a result, but the good news is that physical therapy can help with treatment and prevention.
To understand shoulder impingement, it’s important to first get a basic idea of how the shoulder works. The shoulder is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). The humerus and scapular are surrounded and connected by the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons that keeps the shoulder stable and allows for the ball-and-socket movements of the joint. There is also a fluid-filled sac called the bursa between the rotator cuff and a bony prominence on the top of the scapula (acromion), and its function is to provide a cushion during movement.
In shoulder impingement, the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed—or “impinged”—as they pass through the narrow space beneath the acromion. Over time, this causes the tendons to become irritated and inflamed, and will lead to bothersome symptoms. The most common symptoms of shoulder impingement are:
- Pain, which may be present both at rest and when moving the shoulder overhead, behind the body or to the side
- Pain when sleeping on the injured shoulder and with throwing motions
- Restricted shoulder movement
- Loss of shoulder strength
- Swelling and tenderness
Shoulder impingement most frequently occurs in individuals that perform a lot of overhead activities on a regular basis, which is why pitchers and other baseball players are so highly prone to develop it. Athletes involved in golf, swimming, tennis and other racquet sports, as well as those who paint or do construction for a living are also vulnerable.
For pitchers, it’s a matter of frequency and intensity. Pitching too often and too intensely without taking sufficient breaks in between will increase stress on the shoulder joint and can likely lead to impingement. If nothing is done about this, more serious injuries like rotator cuff tears could occur down the line.
How our physical and occupational therapists will manage your shoulder pain
If shoulder impingement does develop and you experience shoulder pain in Springfield, it’s important that you get appropriate treatment as soon as possible. At ARS Hand & Physical Therapy, we have an effective treatment approach in place for shoulder impingement that typically includes the following components:
- Activity modification/functional training: our therapists will teach you how to avoid painful movements and to correct your pitching or throwing form if baseball is responsible
- Range of motion exercises: since shoulder movement will be limited, these exercises will help increase your flexibility gradually to get it back to normal
- Strengthening exercises: weakness is another problem, and these exercises will increase rotator cuff and scapular muscle strength to improve your functioning
- Manual therapy: your therapist will also perform joint and soft-tissue mobilizations, range of motion and massage to help your shoulder move properly again
- Posture education: having rounded or forward shoulder posture can contribute to impingement, so your therapist may educate you on how to improve your posture
With so much potential ahead in the spring sports season, the last thing any athlete wants is an injury that can sideline him or her for an extended period of time. If you’re an athlete or you have developed shoulder impingement pain, we are here to help. Contact ARS Hand & Physical Therapy in Springfield, NJ at 973-379-7006 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on shoulder impingement.