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Rotator Cuff Syndrome or Impingement Syndrome

rotator cuff xray

Often both conditions in the shoulder area may be involved to some degree.

Pain is generally felt around the outside of the shoulder and upper arm; possibly focused around about 2 inches (5cm) below the top of the shoulder to the side of the arm. It is often most painful while sleeping at night. It can also be painful to raise your arm above the height of your shoulder or behind you or to pull a heavy weight.

The upper arm bone (humerus) connects into the ball joint of the shoulder and the rotator cuff is the socket edge of the shoulder joint.

For computer users, these conditions can result from a sustained imbalance in the use of the four muscles which stabilise the shoulder and allow movement of the arm.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you regularly use a shoulder bag, carry a work bag or briefcase in one hand? If so, this is a potential cause in creating an inbalance in your shoulder (and chest/back muscels). A laptop bag can be better in creating more balance between the arms but can also add to impingement of tendons and nerves. A pull-along laptop/office bag, although still a one-sider issue is often a better solution because so much of the weight is transferred to the floor.
  • Is your pain on the same side as your mouse? Another potential cause can be the sustained tension that you may have in your arm when using a mouse. Minutes quickly turn to hours at the PC and that can cause trapping. Most people find their shoulder movement is key to positioning a mouse. A vertical ergonmic mouse reduces the strain considerably and specifically for shoulder-centred RSI the DXT02 wireless mouse is the best for your condition by far.


Some of the specific conditions that your Doctor or Consultant may identify are these:-

Impingement Syndrome

Rotator Cuff Syndrome or Impingement Syndrome refers to damage of either the tendons (which anchor muscle to bone) or bursa (which act like a gel pad around bone). Usually Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Subacromial Bursitis are involved together to some degree because inflammation is the body’s general reaction to damage and inflammation causes more restriction to tendons and nerves.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis specifically refers to tears, irritation or inflammation in the tendons connecting to the rotator cuff. Tendons connect muscles to bone and the rotator cuff is the socket edge of the shoulder joint.

Subacromial Bursitis

Subacromial Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid filled sac (Subacromial bursa) underneath the collar bone (clavicle). It protects the tendons from rubbing against ligaments and collar bone. Imagine a gel pad on a bike saddle or a wrist rest!



Decreasing the inflammation will decrease the pain. So typically Doctors will advise anti-inflamatory drugs such as ibuprofen, alternating between cold/warm pads on the shoulder and importantly rest! Cortisone (steroid) injections into the inflammed area can be helpful. Once the inflamation is being treated, the aim must be to restore tendon movement and physiotherapy is key to longer term success together with eradicating the cause of the problem.

For computer users, appropriate ergonomic tools will help prevent further damage and thereby aid recovery:-

Help from the Computer Posture RSI Store

Tools that can help reduce the degree of stress and misalignment are below. You will have an understanding whether the problem is more likely to be caused while at your desk or while carrying a laptop around of course so consider these on their merits for your particular case:-

  • A wheeled laptop bag considerably reduces the twisting action on your upper back and shoulder area.
  • An ergonomic mouse is easy to get used to and eliminates the twisting forces down your arm caused by a conventional mouse.
  • Posture Minder software comes with appropriate stretch exercises and also actively monitors your posture.
  • A telephone headset eliminates the strain placed on your neck, shoulder and arm, particularly if you hold a handset between your cheek and shoulder.
  • Speech recognition software gives the wrists, arm, elbow and neck a rest through being able to dictate emails, reports etc.


Physiotherapy for Rotator Cuff Syndrome

You must see a Doctor or Physiotherapist before trying any physiotherapy exercises. However to find more information about Physiotherapy for Rotator Cuff Syndrome, you can read a concise explanation of many of the issues and appropriate exercises can be found on the Australian website PhysioAdvisor.

Further information on the condition and Strengthening Exercises from PhysioAdvisor are well worth a read.