What are the symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome?

Updated: Oct 23, 2018
  • Author: Thomas M DeBerardino, MD; Chief Editor: Craig C Young, MD  more...
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See the list below:

  • Onset: Sudden onset of sharp pain in the shoulder with tearing sensation is suggestive of a rotator cuff tear. Gradual increase in shoulder pain with overhead activities is suggestive of an impingement problem.

  • Chronicity of symptoms

  • Location: Pain usually is reported over the lateral, superior, anterior shoulder; occasionally refers to the deltoid region. Posterior shoulder capsule pain usually is consistent with anterior instability, causing posterior tightness.

  • Setting during which symptoms arise (eg, pain during sleep, in various sleeping positions, at night, with activity, types of activities, while resting)

  • Quality of pain (eg, sharp, dull, radiating, throbbing, burning, constant, intermittent, occasional)

  • Quantity of pain (on a scale of 0-10, 10 being the worst)

  • Alleviating factors (eg, change of position, medication, rest)

  • Aggravating factors (eg, change of position, medication, increase in practice, increase in play, change in athletic gear/foot wear, change in position played)

  • Functional symptoms - Patient changed mechanics (eg, throwing motion, swim stroke) to compensate for pain

  • Associated manifestations (eg, possibly chest pain, dizziness, abdominal pain, shortness of breath)

  • Provocative position: Pain with humerus in forward-flexed and internally rotated position suggests rotator cuff impingement. Pain with humerus in abducted and externally rotated position suggests anterior glenohumeral instability and laxity.

Other history

Inquire about previous or recent trauma, stiffness, numbness, paresthesias, clicking, weakness, crepitus of instability, and neck syndromes.

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