Tag Archive for: shoulder injury

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome – Treat the cause not symptoms

Have you ever had pain in your shoulders when you try to raise your arms overhead, pull off a sweatshirt, grab a gallon of milk from the fridge?  Or place grocery bags on the counter?  You were likely dealing with shoulder impingement syndrome – also known as rotator cuff impingement.

They call it impingement syndrome because your rotator cuff tendons literally get “impinged” between the round head of your shoulder joint and a hook-shaped bone in the front of your shoulder joint (called the acromion) that is part of your shoulder blade.

This can occur for a number of reasons…

You could have a deformity that causes this, an injury could lead to this, arthritis could contribute to this, or poor posture can cause it.

Any of these scenarios can cause crowding in the space where your rotator cuff tendon passes in front of your shoulder. If this happens often enough – it’s going to get irritated every time you raise your arm past 90 degrees.

When this first begins to happen, it will typically cause acute inflammation. You may be diagnosed with rotator cuff tendonitis. But eventually, the more constant pain and irritation of tendonitis subsides and you only feel pain when you go to raise your arm or reach in certain directions.

This is more commonly known as shoulder impingement.

With the exception of a deformity, almost all cases of shoulder impingement can (and should) be resolved naturally.

The tempting and easy fix is to get a cortisone shot to calm the inflammation.

But what you need to understand is that impingement syndrome – in most cases – is actually the symptom of a more overarching problem. And injecting the tendon with cortisone will often cause more harm than good.

The cortisone will temporarily mask your problem. It will eventually cause damage to your tendon if you keep getting injections. Remember, impingement is caused by crowding of the space where your tendon passes through. You can temporarily take the inflammation away and it will feel better. But, unless you address the reason for the crowded space, your problem will keep coming back.

So how do you naturally get rid of shoulder impingement for the long term?

First, you must address the reason for the crowded space in your shoulder joint where your tendon passes through. Most often – it’s due to poor postural habits and immobility around your shoulder joint – specifically your neck and upper back.

For example, if your upper back is stiff, curved, and lacks adequate mobility – it’s going to impact how your shoulder blades move and are positioned.

With a stiff and curved upper back, your shoulder blades will respond by moving out and up. This scenario makes that hook-like bone (the acromion) sit more forward and down than it should. When this happens, there isn’t enough room for your tendon when you lift your arm above shoulder height. The bony surfaces above and below your tendon create friction and this eventually turns into pain and inflammation. This can happen slowly over time. Or, more quickly if you’ve got something like arthritis where that space might have naturally already narrowed.

Another common scenario is after a shoulder injury. Your neck and upper back may have learned to compensate for a time while you were healing from your injury. The result is some unwanted postural deformities that can lead to impingement of your rotator cuff tendon.

When it comes to shoulder pain, always make sure to examine your neck and upper back FIRST.

If there are poor postural habits there, your shoulder will undoubtedly be impacted.

If you really want to get rid of your shoulder impingement – and back to lifting, reaching, and carrying things without any worry – it’s essential that you identify and address the root cause, not just the symptoms (inflammation of the tendon).

Next time you go to the doctor complaining of shoulder pain – and you hear the words “impingement syndrome” or “rotator cuff tendonitis” – don’t assume you need rest, ice, a cortisone shot, or surgery to resolve it.

None of these solutions will give you the long-term solution you’re looking for.

The very last thing you want to do is choose passive treatment interventions or procedures. These either mask the pain or prolong the problem because they only address symptoms.

You want to do everything possible to preserve the integrity of your tendon. The best way to do that is by optimizing the mobility and strength around your shoulder joint first. Do this before resorting to more aggressive measures like cortisone or surgery.

Are you currently suffering from shoulder pain (or anything else) that is keeping you from doing things you love?

Are you contemplating surgery or a cortisone shot because you have been told it’s your best and only option?

Let me know and let us help!

We’re happy to provide a second opinion for you.

We will examine your shoulder and see how it responds to certain movement tests. Then we’ll be able to tell you – and show you – if your problem can be resolved naturally with movement instead of a procedure like a cortisone shot or surgery.

Our patients find that if they end up needing a procedure (which is rare) – they do so with peace of mind. This is because they’ve exhausted a natural, movement-based solution with us FIRST.

If you want to talk to us and see if what we do is right for you – CLICK HERE to request a Discovery Call with my client success team.

They’ll let you know if we can help and get you on our schedule as quickly as possible!

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of one of her guide to neck and shoulder pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Shoulder Pain

Persistent Shoulder Pain could mean Misdiagnosis

Persistent Shoulder Pain could mean Misdiagnosis

We’ve been hearing a lot of complaints lately about shoulder pain. Your shoulder joint is one of the most complex and mobile joints in your body. It’s made up and supported by an intricate structure of bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and connective tissue. They all work in unison to keep it functional.

You’ve got the head of your shoulder joint (looks like a round ball) inserting into a socket within your shoulder blade (your “wing”). This makes up your shoulder joint and is supported by a joint capsule, ligaments, and your rotator cuff muscles.

Surrounding and supporting your shoulder blade and shoulder joint is your cervical and thoracic spine. (neck and upper back). This has both large and small muscles helping to support your ability to push, pull, reach, and raise your arms overhead.

Intertwined within all of that is a delicate web of nerves and blood vessels… No wonder shoulder pain can be a challenge to treat – never mind diagnose.

If you see your doctor about shoulder pain, they will typically want to take a closer look via X-rays and/or MRI’s. X-rays will show you all the bony parts of your joint – to see if anything is broken and check for arthritis. MRI’s will see if anything is torn or worn away, such as rotator cuff or labral tears.

Relying on imaging to diagnose your shoulder pain can be tough. Or any joint pain for that matter.  It’s entirely possible to have arthritis, a torn rotator cuff, or torn labrum – and still have a perfectly functioning shoulder. The problem is we only get things looked at when we are in pain. So, there is no way to know for sure if you’ve had these “abnormalities” already, and if they are the true reason for your shoulder pain.

For example, it’s estimated that between 20-50% of people over aged 50 have “asymptomatic rotator tears”. Meaning – they walk around with a torn rotator cuff and have zero pain in their shoulder. Just because an X-ray or MRI says so – doesn’t mean it is so. And it’s a big reason why so many folks suffer unnecessarily with persistent shoulder pain.

If I meet someone with shoulder pain that hasn’t gone away – the first thing I question is whether or not we have the correct diagnosis. With shoulders, misdiagnosis is all too common given the complex nature of the joint and surrounding structures.

Here are some clues to help you figure out if your persistent shoulder pain has been misdiagnosed:


Where is your pain?

When pain is coming from the shoulder, the pain will typically be felt directly in three places. In front of your shoulder, on top of your shoulder, or in a more involved shoulder problem (like a rotator cuff injury) down the side of your upper arm. But it will never go below your elbow. If the pain goes past your elbow and into your forearm or hand – radiates above your shoulder into your neck (the upper trap area) – or deep inside your shoulder blade or middle back – odds are pretty good you’re dealing with a neck problem – and not just a shoulder problem.

If you don’t address your neck, your shoulder pain will continue to persist. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen get unnecessary rotator cuff surgery because of this misdiagnosis.

Have you lost mobility in your shoulder?

Lack of mobility is a common symptom associated with a rotator cuff injury or the dreaded “frozen shoulder.” These are, indeed, shoulder problems. So if your pain is persisting, you probably have the correct diagnosis, just the wrong treatment approach.

However, one overlooked area when it comes to shoulder stiffness is your middle back (thoracic spine). If your thoracic spine has mobility restrictions – or even weakness that leads to stiffness (our joints stiffen up to compensate for weakness/instability) – it will impact your shoulder joint. Stiffness in your thoracic spine can inhibit your shoulder mobility. Over time, this lack of mobility will irritate structures within your shoulder joint, causing pain.

If you’ve got persistent shoulder pain and feel like you’ve tried everything, get your middle back checked out. This could be your misdiagnosis.

Do your symptoms involve numbness, tingling or burning?

These are signs of nerve compression or irritation. If that’s happening – it’s likely coming from your neck or upper portion of your middle back (cervicothoracic junction). It could be due to a bulging disc or a restricted/faulty movement pattern that is irritating nerve roots (or discs) in your spine. An isolated shoulder problem typically does not involve nerve root compression or irritation. Sometimes certain trigger points in your rotator cuff muscles can refer pain. But this usually feels quite different from what I’m referring to.

Do you consistently feel pain, numbness, tingling or burning in your shoulder blade, middle back, or down your arm? Especially if it seems to move around during the day? Then it’s likely not a shoulder problem. In the medical world we call this presentation “cervical radiculopathy”. If you continue to experience persistent shoulder pain and you’ve got any of the symptoms I just mentioned, this is probably your misdiagnosis.

Confused? I don’t blame you.

The moral of this story is that if you’ve got persistent shoulder pain and given treatment your best shot, then you’ve likely been misdiagnosed. Shoulder pain loves to disguise itself as a spine problem (neck and/or middle back) even when you don’t feel pain in your spine.

Whatever you do, don’t resort to any surgery or major procedures until you’ve thoroughly explored these areas with a mechanical pain expert who knows where to look.

If you are local to Portsmouth, NH

Consider reaching out to one of my specialists by requesting a free discovery visit HERE. They will ask you all about what’s been going on – and see if we would be the best fit to help you.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Common Pickleball Injuries and what to do

If you haven’t heard of pickleball yet, odds are good you will very soon. Pickleball is quickly becoming one of the most popular recreational sports in the US, especially in the over 50 crowd, and especially in Portsmouth and all around the Seacoast of New Hampshire. It’s essentially a cross between tennis, racket ball, and ping pong. The court is smaller than in tennis and the net is set lower. People love pickleball because it’s a great way to not only get exercise – but to socialize and meet new friends.

But like any other sport, injuries happen. And because injuries become more significant and harder to rehabilitate as you get older – it’s important to have an awareness about the common injuries that tend to occur in pickleball players and what you can do to prevent them.

Here are four of the most common injuries I see in Pickleball and what you can do:


1. Rotator cuff strains

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles in your shoulder that play a critical role in both stability and mobility of your shoulder joint. Because pickleball involves repetitive swinging – your shoulder is at risk for overuse injuries and strains. To help minimize the risk of rotator cuff injury, it’s important to ensure that you have good mobility in your shoulder joint, and good mid-back or scapular strength. Your scapula is also called your shoulder blade – if your scapular muscles are weak – then your rotator cuff might be tasked with extra work or strain. The more mobile your shoulder is, and the more balanced the strength around your shoulder joint is, the more effective your rotator cuff will be when playing a repetitive sport like pickleball.

2. “Pickleball” elbow

This is pretty much identical to tennis elbow – known medically as lateral epicondylitis. It causes pain and tenderness on the side of your elbow or forearm – and happens due to overuse of your forearm muscles – typically due to poor mechanics above, below, or in the elbow itself. To prevent this, you want to make sure the areas above and below your elbow joint are strong and stable. Your shoulder needs to be both strong and mobile for when you swing – otherwise your elbow will compensate and try to help out. Your wrist needs to be stable when holding the racket – or your elbow will need to kick in and try to help. The ligaments and muscles around your elbow aren’t designed to do the job of both your shoulder and your wrist – so if you don’t give these areas some love – you could end up with pickleball elbow.

3. Ankle sprains

Because there is a lot of pivoting and starting/stopping directions during pickleball – it’s easy to sprain your ankle if you’re not careful. Most ankle sprains occur from rolling on the outside of your ankle. This results in bruising, pain and swelling of the ligaments along the side of your ankle. While this injury does heal over time, it can often result in chronic weakening or scarring of those ligaments as well as tightness in your ankle joint – which only makes you susceptible to future ankle sprains. It’s best to make sure you have a good warm-up before you play. One that conditions your ankle and feet for quick stepping and flexibility. You also want to make sure you have strong hip muscles. If your side hip muscles aren’t strong and helping you stay stable in your pelvis – your ankle will take the brunt – and you’ll be more likely to sprain it.

4. Achilles tendonitis

Your Achilles tendon is a very strong, thick tendon that connects your calf muscle to your heel. It’s responsible for generating a lot of power to help you spring off your foot and jump. Its power is generated from its ability to stretch and then contract. Therefore, your ankle needs to have good mobility in order for your Achilles tendon to do its job. If your ankle is stiff and tight, you could be at risk for developing Achilles tendonitis. One other consideration is the strength of your glutes (or butt). Calf muscles love to compensate for weak gluteal muscles. If that happens over and over, they become tight and can put extra strain on your Achilles tendon – since they are connected. So make sure your butt is strong and your ankle is mobile in order to help prevent this common pickleball injury.

If you’re a pickleball lover – or perhaps wanting to get into this popular sport for the first time – I hope these tips help you to become more aware of what you can do to protect yourself from injury.

Ready to get help with your pain or injury?

Request to speak to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH