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Shoulder Impingement

Updated on February 19, 2021

The Phases of Shoulder Impingement

I'd never even heard of it until I got it!

At least that's what we think it is. This is not a medical site, this is just what happened to me, and what I went through as diagnosed Shoulder Impingement. I hope it helps some of you through it. Sometimes even though you've gone to Physical Therapy, it helped, but nothing really ever cured it.

Phase 1. When you think you've just got a pulled muscle.
Phase 2. It gets worse after you've rested it.
Phase 3. It's so bad, you have to go to physical therapy because you can't move your arm.
Phase 4. You get a bit better, and have to remember to stretch every day, especially in the morning.
Phase 5. At some point your should will feel as if it has to pop into place. Do an isometric exercise and usually you can move it so you hear a pop then you are able to move your arm better without it having that "caught on something" feeling!

  • (Sometimes, that "caught" feeling could be a bone spur, please ask your Doctor to check that out, having it removed could make a world of difference!)

Phase 6. Stretch, everyday, over your head, to your back, it's going to hurt, even if you do have pain medicine, work with it when you take it. You've got to keep your body mobile or the pain will be too much!

How to Massage a Shoulder Impingement!

Without hitting the bone, this muscle needs firm but not more painful massage. It gets very tense and this helps relax that tendon and muscle.
Without hitting the bone, this muscle needs firm but not more painful massage. It gets very tense and this helps relax that tendon and muscle.

How to help ease the pain!

Shoulder Impingement is the second most painful thing I've had in comparison to having a 10lb child! Mine came about while trying to use an axe to cut down a small tree. I thought it would come down easily but it didn't. I felt a pain shoot across my shoulders, and went inside. I put heat on it thinking I might of just pulled a muscle. BIG MISTAKE! Put and ice pack on it, the best thing is a BAG OF FROZEN PEAS!

They will mold to your whole shoulder, just put a small hand towel or dry washcloth between you and the plastic so it won't hurt your skin!

I waited about 4 or so days before going to the doctor. THAT WAS TOO LONG! By then my right arm was basically useless, not to mention I was in such pain I was in tears. I was given some pain medication and it said take with food or milk. I really don't drink much milk, but it was horrible pain just making a piece of toast to get down so the pain medicine wouldn't give me an upset stomach. And YES, for some people that is necessary. It's best if you can just get a package of something easy to open and eat before taking pain medications if they make you have an upset stomach. Get rolls or something premade if possible. Just for your mornings. After your medicine works, you'll be able to get other things to eat before your next dose.

At the doctor, they did all the normal things, get ex rays, send me to an othopedic surgeon, and sent me to physical therapy. The Orthopedic sergeon sent me for an MRI on my shoulder. Normally they're not painful at all! It's like an ex-ray, but it ex rays the soft tissues that a regular ex ray doesn't see. The only reason I had pain during it was having to stay still and in one place with a piece of very soft (thing?) holding my shoulder in place so it could get the necessary scans.

If you are overweight, the machines aren't quite well equipt for overweight people, so if you cannot fit in the machine, you won't be able to eat much either, so you might lose a few lbs just on that note, but rescedule and get yourself in that MRI machine if possible! It will GREATLY help the doctor decide what is the best help for you, although this is what they did for me, everyone is different, it might not be as bad for you, or it could be worse. Just save your time IN CASE it is worse and get to the doctor and get HELP to get better!


GO. It will help. But you must make them aware not to make sudden movements of your arms/shoulders or back! You might hurt worse, some are more aggressive, and some are not. I prefer not to be crying when I leave! A good physical therapist will NOT put you through more pain than you can handle and will be sympathetic to your pain. I actually went to another hospital's therapy because they were too rough at the other. I don't know for some people, but it was a slow process, but going to physical therapy and being helped by people who are sympatheic to your pain, also know the best, and quickest ways out. ... if not, ask your doctor for another referal to another hosptial, find out what your insurance will pay. If you're low income, and get any assistance, then call your case worker and ask for gas vouchers. They will help you get back n' forth. Some states also have a Van that picks up some people who cannot drive. As your case worker about that.

While that is great, it helped, there's little things about it, not medical that they might not think of. Like if you can sleep with a pillow between your arms, or a sort of flat one under your arm, you will go from a thick to thinner one to none though the healing process.

Here's a list to help you remember:

  • Keep an extra bag of peas or ice pack in your freezer!
  • Keep something easy to open and eat to get medicine down.
  • BUY PILLOWS that fit your needs. Get a pillow maybe you are done with that is sort of flat. Put it between your upper arm and side while laying on your opposite side. (name it your armpit pillow!!!) :)
  • Put a firm pillow awhile you're still in pain, under your head that is even with your shoulder, so you do not put too much pressure on your other shoulder! It will also help your back and your neck! A GOOD INVESTMENT!
  • Try to sleep for a few nights on a sofa where your back can lean if need be. It will help keep you proped from rolling to your back. And waking in PAIN.
  • Keep your pain medications (and that food item) close to your bed, if you have no children or any worries of the wrong person (or animal) getting these things, put them in something YOU can open with ease that they cannot, If you don't have these worries, (I didn't) then put them in a dish so they don't roll onto the floor, and put your bread or other morning snack, like a pop tart, whatever suits you so you can take your medication before you begin to get moving!

Pain medication is great if you can tolerate it. Some have strange side effects. I went through one of my worst side effects for about a week, and the dreams were the worse nightmares you could have. So I would wake, moving quickly, and cause myself more pain, and loss of sleep. If you can get past this stage they will help you.

  • It is a MYTH (in my opinion) that people get addicted to pain medications quickly, so please do not worry about that, but talk with your doctor about it. Tell them you are concerned and do not want to fall into that sort of trap. You'll know the signs when you are (if you are) getting addicted, this is when you should talk to your doctor. Not AFTER you are totally addicted! That's another sort of LIVING HELL you do not want, on top of having chronic pain.

One way of knowing the beginning of an addiction is THINKING you need more. It doesn't mean you don't, you might certainly NEED more for real! It's when the side effects that make people "high" or "speedy" that you start looking for is when it's not good.

At whatever level worked to get rid of your pain (or minimize it, it takes a lot, too much to totally get rid of the pain) is all you're going to need. You just stop feeling that side effect in your head, but your pain is relieved, then YOUR PAIN MEDICATION IS WORKING!!

If you can at all get your doctor to put you under (into a sleep) they can manipulate your shoulder around and a lot of the little bones and things that do not show up on an ex ray are out of place, will slide back in. But there's just no way to tell how they are. Most doctors won't even acknowledge that sedating a patient is a tremendous help. It sure helped me. I am still in pain, yes, but it "helped" a great deal. More than the anti-inflamatory meds, more than PT and a lot less painful.

Another option (if you can stand shots in weird places) is to have a cortizone shot in the tendon that leads from your shoulder to your neck. It will shrink that tendon and make it easier to move. I know someone who had a mild impingement, and after his shot, he has never needed another one, and he has totall full range of motion with that arm.


After awhile it gets really tiring sleeping only on your back. If you're a side sleeper, then you might know what it's like to need to sleep on your side. You're going to have to get pillows! That will be one of the main things that's going to help you through a sleep. (keep in mind I didn't say good nights sleep). You're going to need your head even with your shoulder just as if you were standing. This is when you can stand to get on your side, before this stage, you're pretty much stuck on your back. Sitting with your head leaning on a pillow in a recliner is a great help too. But back to keeping your head even and straight with the pillow.

Then if you have a rather fluffy long one (if you don't, get investing) you can lay your hurt arm, over the pillow and it will cradle the feeling in your shoulder.

Get a glass of water, and a pain medicine and keep it by your bed. (PLEASE MAKE SURE CHILDREN DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ANY OF YOUR MEDICATIONS! AGAIN, I STRESS THIS!) Within reach with your good arm. This will help you when you first wake. Take the pill, (and food) and try to lay there for about a good 40ish minutes. The pain medication will be kicking in, and when you try getting yourself up, you'll have that little bit of help! If there is any way you can set something up to grab onto with your other arm is also a great help in pulling yourself up. (if you're alone, and even if you're not, sometimes it's too painful to sleep with someone)

When you've found out this is the real injury to your shoulder and are in the process of healing, I cannot stress how much you need to stretch. In the morning. As soon as your pain medication begins to work. Because if you don't, when you don't have any pain medicine, it will be harder to stretch the way you need to. Getting funtional with a shoulder impingement is a long (about 2 years for me) process to be able to do regular household chores without resting in between. Don't get me wrong, I do still have to rest if it's something long, or heavy. I still cannot fold a whole load of towels at ONE time. I have to break them down into smaller wash cycles so I can get them done.

And don't forget ICE PACKS, FROZEN PEAS, ARE YOUR FRIENDS RIGHT NOW! Try to get that extra bag of frozen peas or something so that it will shape to your shoulder. It will help shrink the inflamation. I just cannot stress how much ICE works better than heat. If you ever get heat, it will be wet heat they use at the hospital's Physical Therapy room, and it will feel great. But theirs is not something you can make at home. Another perk of going to PT.

If you have anyone at home who is sympathetic to your pain, the photo above is the best way to keep your neck muscle limber. Try doing this after a hot shower or bath. (sometimes getting in/out of the shower is such a task with bad shoulders!) But if you have someone who will massage in the way that's shown in the photo, it will greatly help relax that muscle and it will help the tendon relax as well.

TRY HARD TO STAY OUT OF STRESSFUL SITUATIONS! When your muscles tense up, your pain will increase! It's a fact! A very sad fact, but a fact none the less!

I actually fell down a couple of times because I had bad eyesight. That's fixed now but I think I may have made mine worse because of it. Anyway, the pain shifted from my right shoulder to my left. The ex rays showed the pain going all the way across. So I went for about a year with my left shoulder.

I have to say tho, one really annoying thing is, the drug stores didn't start coming out with caps that are not childproofed and I have had some hard times getting the meds out. They do now, but they didn't then! ASK FOR THEM, you'll be glad you did! If you have children, please, use those, and maybe have someone else open them for you.

Really, I hope you don't have to ever go through this, but if you do, and you have questions about anything, or need any help feel free to email me.

The only thing I think I was able to help anyone with in Physical Therapy was the fact this lady wanted to curl her hair, but she couldn't reach the back of her head. Since I have long hair, it just hit me, how do I wash it?! I told her, lean over putting your head far down as you can, and you might can reach to put your rollers in. Sure enough, she tried it, and was able to lift her arms and shoulders to the very back one. I felt good that I could at least help someone there, and I hope something in this helps you as well! Thanks for reading! And above all,

KEEP STRETCHING... everyday!

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