Improving Your Health and Wellbeing

How Physiotherapy Can Help Speed Your Recovery After Shoulder Impingement Surgery

by Ernest Smith

Shoulder impingement syndrome may not be life-threatening, but it can be both debilitating and excruciatingly painful to live with. Fortunately, most cases of shoulder impingement can be resolved using conservative, non-invasive medical treatments. However, people with severely impinged shoulders may need to undergo shoulder surgery to alleviate the pain and restore the affected shoulder's range of motion.

A wide variety of techniques can be used to repair a shoulder damaged by impingement syndrome, and most are minimally-invasive procedures that tend to heal quickly. However, it can be difficult to restore your shoulder to its previous strength and mobility after surgery, at least without professional help. Physiotherapy, performed under the care and guidance of an accredited general physiotherapist, can be a great way to promote healing and restore functionality in shoulders that have undergone recent surgery.

Why is physiotherapy necessary after shoulder impingement surgery?

When you raise your arm over your head, some of the muscles, nerves and other soft tissues in your shoulder become sandwiched in a space between two of the bones of your shoulder. This gap is known as the subacromial space, and is naturally present in every person's shoulders. If this space is too small for the soft tissues that enter it, these tissues will become pinched between the rigid bones; this causes the characteristic shoulder pain and stiffness of shoulder impingement syndrome.

A small subacromial space can be caused by your genetics, previous injuries and other factors. If the subacromial space is particularly small, conservative treatments for shoulder impingement may not be effective and surgical enlargement of the subacromial space may be necessary.

To enlarge the subacromial space, your surgeon(s) may need to remove significant amounts of excess bone and/or scar tissue that have caused the space to narrow. They may also need to repair damage to the muscles and tendons caused by the impingement. It is also important to avoid strenuous activity and exercising your impinged shoulder, both before and after your surgery. As you can imagine, this combination of factors can cause your affected shoulder to lose a lot of strength and mobility before, during and after surgery.

How can physiotherapy help restore my shoulder after impingement surgery?

Most shoulder impingement surgery specialists recommend physiotherapy after surgical intervention, and you should make an appointment with a reputable general physiotherapist immediately after your surgery. You may also be referred to a suitable physio by your doctor or surgeon.

Your physiotherapist will first examine the post-surgical state of your shoulder, taking into account the type(s) of surgery you had and any pre-existing medical conditions you may suffer from. They will also show you how to safely use any slings, casts or other medical supports you may be using.

Once your physio has evaluated your condition, they will create a personalised rehabilitation plan designed to restore the maximum amount of strength and mobility to your affected shoulder. Passive range-of-motion exercises and other low-intensity exercises can be started just a few days after surgery, and will help to promote blood flow and prevent scar tissue forming in the shoulder. Once your shoulder has healed, you can move on to more strenuous exercises.

Your physiotherapist can also offer additional treatments to promote healing and reduce any post-surgical pain you experience. Deep tissue massage, pain medications, ultrasound therapy and other useful adjunct therapies can all be provided by your physiotherapist if necessary.

For more information, reach out to a general physiotherapy clinic in your area today.