I play in a fast-pitch softball league and I have been experiencing a growing sharp pain in my shoulder. It seems the pain is coming from my rotator cuff and I have problems when I lay on it to sleep. Can you help me diagnose this injury?
Dr. Brian J. Cole:
You may have a case of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. This condition is caused by the inflammation of the tendons and muscles that make up your rotator cuff. These inflamed tendons rub against the outer end of the shoulder blade, causing the sharp pain you feel.
This injury is common in sports that use overhead throwing or lifting motions. Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is accompanied by pain throughout the shoulder joint that can extend as far as the elbow. It often times flares up while you sleep at night because of the pressure exerted on the shoulder in some positions.
The pain may be manageable at the onset of the condition, but over time it typically worsens. The patient may notice the lack of range of motion in the joint as well as a deterioration of shoulder strength. After a prolonged period, the injury will often make it difficult for a person to even lift their arm over their head.
There are many treatments for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, many of which are nonsurgical. A sports medicine orthopaedic physician will typically recommend icing the shoulder and discontinuing activity as an initial course of treatment. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed.
If the pain does not subside after a few weeks, your physician may recommend a corticosteroid injection to assist in the healing process. The typical recovery time for this condition is 9 to 12 weeks in moderate to severe cases.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the professional advice of your physician, nor to be a complete description of every aspect of a condition, nor a complete list of possible side effects of any medication. Decisions concerning your treatment should be based on your own health care provider's evaluation of your personal health history and current condition. Consult your physician before following any of the suggestions on this Web site. All articles on this Web site represent the personal opinions of the individual authors and should not be construed as official policy of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.