How To Fix Shoulder Impingement (Quickly!)
Ever feel that nasty pinch in your shoulder when you go to lift your arm up toward the ceiling? This is what we call a shoulder impingement and I’ve been there so I know it’s not a fun feeling.
In today’s coaching I’ll show you the simplest most effective way to clean up your shoulder problem in no time.
WHAT IS SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT?
I like to think of shoulder impingement as a lack of space problem. The humerus, a long bone that runs from your shoulder to your elbow, sits inside of your shoulder capsule. As you go to lift your arm up, this bone not only rotates, but also has to move backwards. If you don’t have enough space in there, the bone will run out of room and impingement sets in… ouch!
SYMPTOMS OF SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT
The biggest symptom of shoulder impingement is that stabbing pinch you feel in the front of your shoulder as you:
Lift your arm over head
Get in the bottom of the bench press or push-up
Even just lifting your arm out to the side
There are times where this will be a quick sensation going away as you come out of those positions or for some, it’s a constant nagging nuisance that occurs all day.
CAUSES OF SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT
Shoulder impingement is caused by a lack of internal rotation of the shoulder. Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and must have the ability to rotate inside said socket. Remember earlier when I said it was a “space problem”? When your shoulder lacks room inside the joint capsule for the shoulder to rotate, you’ll inevitably start to feel that pinch as your arm moves.
COMMON EXERCISES THAT DON’T WORK
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve inevitably done a million banded rotator cuff exercises. I’m also guilty as charged. These exercises are not useless by any means, but the problem is that they don’t increase internal rotation of the shoulder. Of course they strengthen all the rotator cuff muscles that “rotate” your shoulder which is awesome, but if you’re not creating more internal rotation range of motion, you’re not creating more space. No space = impingement. Once you’ve created more space, then start to add these into your program.
THE BEST EXERCISE TO FIX SHOULDER IMPINGEMENT
My favorite exercise to fix shoulder impingement is Internal Rotation of the Shoulder PAILs and RAILs. With this exercise, we’re going to sit in a stretch that increases internal rotation of the shoulder for a predetermined amount of time, then we’ll perform isometrics for muscles on both sides of the shoulder, and then we'll sit in the stretch once again, most likely at a deeper range of motion.
This sequence is increasing the shoulder’s ability to internally rotate, which you now know is what you need in order to have more space in the shoulder joint.
BENEFITS OF THIS EXERCISE
After a few weeks of being consistent with this exercise, you should start to notice that you have more range of motion before you feel the impingement in your shoulder. This should continue to improve as time goes on. Unfortunately, changing the function of your shoulder takes times.
Another benefit of this exercise is when internal rotation is improved, many other motions of the shoulder are increased as well, meaning you’re bringing a better shoulder to whatever activity you’re doing like throwing, swinging, pressing, pulling, etc.
COMMON COMPENSATIONS TO AVOID
When performing this exercise, the number 1 thing people do to compensate is shrugging their shoulder way too much. Shrugging allows you to trick your body into thinking you have way more internal rotation than you actually do. Resist the urge to shrug your way into this range of motion. Just remember to keep your shoulder away from your ear while doing this exercise.
KEEP YOUR INTENSITY LOW One more thing that’s important to mention is… don’t get carried away with your intensity on these. We have a tendency to always want to crank on our joints or get the biggest, most painful stretch and that’s simply not necessary. Keep the volume down and you’ll get where you want to go much faster.
HOW TO PROGRAM THIS EXERCISE
When first starting out, I recommend performing this sequence 2-3 times per week with at least one day of rest between. During the first few weeks, keep your intensity quite low and make sure you’re not feeling any pain or discomfort while doing this so. If you feel any pain or discomfort, simply back out of the range a little until your shoulder feels safe.
2 minutes of stretching with zero pain or discomfort
Perform 2-3 rounds of the isometrics as described in the video
2 more minutes of stretching with zero pain or discomfort
Slowly come out the stretch
Rotate shoulder for 10 reps as shown in the video
You can do this anywhere, however today I’m going to show you it seated because it’ll be easier for you to learn and do correctly, if you’re new to this.
I’d also recommend sitting in front of a mirror if possible so you can check your form. Watch the coaching video above for step-by-step instruction on how to rid yourself of that shoulder impingement.
YOUR STICKY SHOULDER SOLUTION
If you enjoyed this exercise and want to get the exact exercises I use with clients to relieve shoulder pain and increase flexibility, check out the Healthy Shoulders 10 Day Challenge. You can get back to your normal activities and I'll show you how in less than 10 minutes a day.
ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor
Weck Method Qualified