Subacromial Impingement. What is it and how may osteopathy help? By Dr Sarah Walsh (Osteopath)

By Eliza Gleadell
June 30, 2022

Subacromial impingement syndrome is one of the most common causes for shoulder pain (1). It involves pinching or friction of the tissues within the subacromial space, due to narrowing when the arm or shoulder is put into certain positions. The subacromial space is created by the top of the humerus, the shoulder joint and ligaments, and the acromion which is the top of the shoulder blade. Within the subacromial space is the bicep tendon, rotator cuff and bursa.

Subacromial impingement syndrome can occur due to a number of reasons such as anatomical and mechanical factors, rotator cuff injury, joint instability, imbalance of the muscles that stabilise the shoulder blade and posture (2). It usually presents as shoulder pain with no major trauma involved, which is made worse by lifting the arm or overhead activities (1). There can be a loss of shoulder range of motion and it is usually painful (1).

Recurrence of subacromial impingement syndrome can be common (1) so it’s important to see your osteopath for an assessment. Treatment and rehabilitation is aimed at reducing pain and improving shoulder function through a combination of manual therapy and exercise rehabilitation.


1. Senbursa G, Baltac─▒ G, Atay A. Comparison of conservative treatment with and without manual physical therapy for patients with shoulder impingement syndrome: a prospective, randomized clinical trial. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy. 2007;15(7):915-921.

2. Lewis J, Green A, Dekel S. The Aetiology of Subacromial Impingement Syndrome. Physiotherapy. 2001;87(9):458-469.

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