Subacromial impingement is a clinical sign of shoulder pain, with a mechanism of injury where sensitive shoulder tendons get impinged in the subacromial space at the anterior aspect of the shoulder.

It is mainly felt functionally with reaching and overhead activities.

There are several underlying causes of subacromial impingement, including (but not limited to):

  • Reduced rotator cuff and scapular (shoulder blade) muscle control and strength
  • Inflammation of the subacromial bursa
  • Shoulder joint stiffness
  • Rotator cuff bone spurs

Decompression surgery is a common method utilised to help relieve shoulder pain due to subacromial impingement. However, the latest research on this type of surgery indicates that exercise-based therapy may have the same pain-modifying effects in the long term (up to 1 year).

It is highly recommended that people suffering from gradual-onset shoulder pain try at least 6 months of exercise-based therapy from either a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist, before consulting a surgeon for an opinion on surgery.

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Subacromial decompression surgery for adults with shoulder pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis

The benefits and harms of subacromial decompression  surgery in adult patients with subacromial pain syndrome lasting for more than 3 months.

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Author: Michael Dermansky

Michael has now been working in physiotherapy for over 20 years, since graduating from Melbourne University in 1998 and is even more passionate about getting the best outcomes for clients than he was then. Michael is always studying and looking for new and innovative ways to improve the service at MD Health, including and not limited to the ideas from the fitness industry and great customer service companies. In his spare moments, he loves spending time with his two children, Sebastian and Alexander and hopefully taking them skiing more and more often.

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