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Shoulder Impingement and Treatment in the Overhead Athlete


Shoulder Impingement is a common injury Dr. Joe and myself see with overhead athletes.  Being an overhead athlete simply means that you are required to move weights above shoulder height.  We can see shoulder impingement with one isolated lift, or even occur over weeks or months.  

This pain is usually felt along the top of the shoulder with overhead lifts (ie: snatches, jerks, strict and push presses, etc).  Sometimes this pain with lifting can also turn into pain with everyday overhead activities such as reaching above into your pantry or even sleeping on that side.  

So how does this pain happen?  Great question!  There is a narrow space in the shoulder for the supraspinatus (the rotator cuff muscle towards the top of the shoulder) to pass through before attaching to the arm.  The space is narrowed and causes that pain with overhead—this is why chiropractors are great at putting things back where they belong and reducing tension that causes the narrowing.  This is why exercise programing for overhead athletes should include shoulder blade control exercises, rotator cuff strengthening and decreasing tightnesses and weaknesses in the surrounding muscles of the shoulder back and chest.  Additionally, thoracic mobility will greatly improve shoulder stability in the overhead athlete.  We often see this pain start with increases in training loads, volumes, and also poor mechanics.  

Treatments for shoulder impingement should include stretching pecs and lats, strengthening rotators through all ranges of movement, and improving scapular mechanics.  Prior to engaging in overhead lifts, try foam rolling and stretching lats, trigger pointing through your pecs, some light rotator cuff warming up, and thoracic mobility exercises.  If this doesn’t help, consult with your local sport chiropractor or a great physio in your area.  

Dr. Joe and myself help many overhead athlete patients not only find relief of symptoms, but also fix the problem from the source so you can continue to lift overhead safely.  Through thorough assessments and screening of your anatomy and flexibility, mobility and muscular control we can help treat and prevent further injury.  Just make sure your provider you are seeing understands your sport and the mechanics of your lifts.  Early treatment of musculoskeletal complaints will help you keep training through the pain vs having to stop and rest.  

If you are an overhead athlete and want either a complimentary consultation or treatment for a shoulder injury, call us at 515-450-8541 or schedule online at www.amesspineandsport.com/contact.

And remember… remaining functional is everywhere, but achieving your optimal potential is at Ames Spine & Sport.