Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is nonsurgical and may involve physical therapy. In addition, some therapies you may try include resting the shoulder or surgery.

Resting the shoulder:

Your doctor my prescribe a course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as Ibuprofen. You may require supervised physical therapy and/or home stretching and strengthening exercises. Injection of a local anesthetic and cortisone into the shoulder is an option also.

Surgical Treatment:

If nonsurgical treatment does not reduce pain, there are surgical options. As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications. Your orthopedic surgeon will do all that is possible to minimize these risks.

Operations are usually only performed if non-surgical treatment has failed. The goal of surgery is to remove the impingement on the rotator cuff and bursa by creating more space between the humeral head and the acromion. The most common surgical treatment is sub-acromial decompression. This may be performed by either arthroscopic (small incisions with cameras) or open techniques. In this procedure the portion of the acromion causing impingement is removed along with some of the bursa. The surgeon may also treat other conditions present in the shoulder at the same time, including repairs of any rotator cuff tears.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers


Sports Medicine Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Appointments: (415) 353–2808
Main: (415) 353–9400
Fax: (415) 885–3862
Appointment information