Rotator Cuff Syndrome or Impingement Syndrome

rotator cuff xray

Often both conditions in the shoulder area may be involved to some degree and are likely to take a few months to recover.

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.

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-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, alternating between cold/warm pads on the shoulder and importantly rest! Cortisone (steroid) injections into the inflamed area can be helpful. Once the inflammation 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.

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