Impingement syndrome is the first stage of potential rotator cuff problems. Repetitive motion or the normal wear and tear of aging often results in irritation of the tendons of the rotator cuff or biceps tendon (tendinitis). It may also result in irritation of the bursa (bursitis) a sac that acts as a cushion between the top of the shoulder blade and the rotator cuff, allowing the smooth gliding movements of the rotator cuff tendon.
These conditions are called impingement syndrome, because the rotator cuff tendons are “impinged or squeezed” between the moving head of the upper arm bone and the acromion. This results in inflammation and swelling of the cuff tendons.
In most cases, tendinitis and bursitis can be improved with rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs, in combination with physical therapy or other medication. If the condition does not respond to these conservative measures, arthroscopic surgery may be used to increase the space for the rotator cuff tendons, to allow them to glide freely, by removing some of the under surface of the acromion bone and clearing the inflamed bursal tissue.