Can Sports Massage Help Shoulder Impingement?

Can Sports Massage Help Shoulder Impingement, Upper Arm Pain

Shoulder impingement is a painful condition in which part of the shoulder blade presses on the rotator cuff. It’s a common injury, particularly in active people who do many repetitive overhead lifting motions. 

Can sports massage help shoulder impingement? And what are other treatment options? We’re here to answer all your questions. Thankfully, sports massage is a safe and effective treatment for shoulder impingement. Massaging can break apart soft tissue adhesions to improve the shoulder’s motion range.

Read on to find out how this massage technique can help improve your pain, and the self-treatment techniques you can practice to complement your sports massage.

How Massage Therapy Can Help Shoulder Impingement

For shoulder impingement treatment, therapists focus on gentle stretching tactics and correcting muscle dysfunction. Your massage specialist may work on the rotator cuff and shoulder joint while stretching the upper back and pectoral muscles. 

Sports massage can help treat and alleviate the pain that comes with shoulder impingement by offering the following benefits:

Increasing Blood Flow

Sports massage therapy can help increase the blood supply into your muscles. That means the muscles receive enough oxygen-rich nutrients, helping to lower blood pressure and enhance circulation. That increases the range of motion in the shoulder joint and relaxes the muscles. It also allows the tension to disappear, relieving the pain.   

Stabilizing and Strengthening the Muscles

Shoulder misalignment and instability can cause a lot of pain. Massage therapy can help alleviate this by strengthening and stabilizing muscles and improving shoulder position and posture. Also, deep shoulder tissue massage therapy relieves pain and tension along the neck and shoulder nerve pathways. 

Combining slow strokes and firm pressure to reach the deepest layers of your shoulder muscle and fascia can break up scar tissue and relieve the pain associated with shoulder impingement. This massage can help by strengthening the rotator cuff and scapular muscles to minimize the risk of dislocations and joint instability. 

Increasing Range of Motion

As mentioned, sports massage can help relax muscle tightness around the shoulder. That facilitates a freer range of motion within the joint. Massaging the tissues around the shoulder loosens the muscle fibers and releases the trigger points, improving joint function. That also relieves pain. 

Sports massage with the appropriate stretches and exercises is effective in shoulder impingement treatment. Your physiotherapist can apply several massage strokes, including effleurage, stretching, friction, and PNF. 

Self Massage for Shoulder Pain and Impingement

If seeing a sports massage therapist is impossible, you can do a self-massage at home. Though you may not achieve the results of a professional, you’ll still find some relief. This can also be used to complement your sports massage sessions. 

Start by massaging the over-the-shoulder blade. Also, aim to massage the upper inner corner of the shoulder blade under the bony ridge. You will probably not reach the area without some help. So, use a massage tool for easy access or ask a partner to help you. 

When to Avoid Sports Massage

Sports massage is not always suitable for treating shoulder impingement. Before using it for this condition, talk to your doctor for a diagnosis and ensure that the massage will not worsen the situation. There may be an underlying issue causing your pain. 

You must avoid any form of massage if your shoulder is frozen or the tissues are inflamed. Massaging inflamed shoulder tissues can cause the shoulder to flare up and increase pain. Your doctor and therapist will give you the best advice about your particular condition. 

Other Shoulder Impingement Treatment Options 

While sports massage will most likely help with your symptoms, other treatment options are available. Many of these can be used in conjunction with sports massage.

Rest – The first thing to do when you have been diagnosed with shoulder impingement is to avoid the activities that triggered the injury. That means taking a break from any weightlifting, athletic activities, etc. Doing so can be challenging, especially if you’re used to being active, but it’s necessary for healing to begin.  

Support – Gravity will pull on the injured arm, worsening the injury. Support your arm with a cushion or pillow as often as possible to facilitate healing. 

Ice – Place ice on the shoulder for about 10 to 15 minutes. Ensure there’s a thin cloth between your skin and the ice. Icing your shoulder daily before sleeping can reduce swelling and decrease pain. 

Surgery – If nothing else works, surgery may be an option. The procedure is called subacromial decompression and can provide a solution for those in long-term pain. With this surgery, more space is created for the rotator cuff by removing bone or tissue from the area. It will take approximately three months to be completely pain-free. 

How to Prevent Shoulder Impingement

Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, you should consider having myofascial release treatment or deep tissue massage as part of maintenance to prevent muscular tension and tightness.

Avoid leaving it until you’re experiencing painful symptoms. Addressing any symptoms early enough will save you from the pain and discomfort associated with shoulder impingement. 

An arm is one of the most active physical parts of our bodies. We use it to reach for or lift things, type on the computer, and do other daily activities like brushing our teeth, driving, etc. So, it’s not surprising that our shoulders can run into trouble sometimes. However, you can prevent shoulder impingement by doing the following:

  • Maintain proper strength in the shoulder and shoulder-blade muscles
  • Maintain shoulder correct posture and alignment when performing throwing and reaching motions. 
  • Regularly stretch the neck, shoulders, and middle-back section
  • Avoid rounded-shoulder and forward-head posture if you spend long periods sitting at a computer or desk.

Final Thoughts

Sports massage can be a great treatment for shoulder impingement. This treatment focuses on releasing tension while stretching tight muscles. This helps ease pain and improve motion range. In other words, sports massage helps decrease inflammation, scar tissue build-up and realign torn fibers. 

If you fear you have shoulder impingement, you should always speak to a doctor to ensure that you get a correct diagnosis. While you do that, getting a sports massage will greatly reduce pain and start on your road to recovery. 



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