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Massage Techniques for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

by Patty Weasler, RN December 26, 2019 0 Comments

Woman shoulder massage

Shoulder impingement can be painful and cause a loss of motion within the shoulder. Luckily, massage for shoulder impingement syndrome is a safe and effective treatment. Simple self-massage techniques or massage therapists can work soft tissue to break apart adhesions to improve the shoulder’s range of motion. Keep reading to learn more about how you can use massage therapy to improve your shoulder injury.

How Massage Helps Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is an overuse condition that results from repetitive overhead movements. With every shoulder movement, the shoulder tendons pass through the subacromial space. If this space becomes smaller due to inflammation the tendons can catch the acromion, a boney structure in the shoulder. If shoulder impingement continues without treatment, you can develop tendinitis, particularly supraspinatus and infraspinatus.

Massage works in multiple ways to improve range of motion and soothe overworked muscles. Here are just a few benefits of massage for shoulder impingement:

  • Scar tissue break down
  • Release of adhesions
  • Reduction of further tendon impingement
  • Increase flexibility
  • Additional injury prevention
  • Overall relaxation and tension release

Professional Massage Techniques

Treatment from a licensed massage therapist ensures that your massage will be done by someone who has training on the anatomy of the shoulder muscles. They will adjust your treatment according to your body’s response to give you the best outcomes possible.

Sports Massage

A sports massage is ideal for athletes to help them regain their shoulder’s range of motion. Shoulder impingement can affect athletes who swim, play tennis, or baseball as all these sports use frequent overhead repetitive motions. This type of massage is individualized to the athlete’s sport and injury.

For shoulder impingement, the massage would focus on gentle stretching techniques in addition to correcting muscle dysfunction. Your massage therapist may work on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff while stretching the upper back and pec muscles.

Sports massage is especially effective when used in conjunction with shoulder impingement stretches and exercises.

Trigger Point Therapy

Shoulder impingement causes trigger points to form in the rotator cuff muscles. These trigger points can linger even after the condition has resolved. With trigger point massage therapy, the massage therapist will apply sustained pressure on the spots to release the tension in the muscle resulting in pain relief. Trigger points may not be at the site of pain, so having a trained therapist will aid in finding the correct locations in your body.

One common technique that is used is placing one hand behind your back, trying to move it up between your shoulder blades. A massage therapist will perform this stretch slowly due to tight rotator cuff muscles. Many people find relief with this trigger point therapy stretch for shoulder impingement. A handheld massager can make it easier to reach difficult areas in the shoulder and back.

Myofascial Massage

Myofascial massage is a soft tissue massage to treat skeletal muscle pain and stiffness. The massage relaxes tense muscles, improves blood and lymphatic circulation. Myofascial release can be done during a physical therapy session or by a massage therapist.

During the treatment, you should expect the therapist to apply gentle pressure or sustained stretching to the shoulder joint and upper arm. The tight muscles will relax and tension is released with repeated sessions. Over time, you’ll notice that your range of motion has increased, there will be more shoulder function, and less pain.

For easy myofascial release, try a handheld lacrosse ball

Self Massage for Shoulder Pain

If going to a massage therapist isn’t possible you can perform self massage at home. You might not be able to achieve a deep tissue massage at home but with practice, you’ll find some relief.

One of the best spots to massage is over the shoulder blade. Aim to massage the upper inner corner of the shoulder blade just under the boney ridge. It’s nearly impossible to reach this area without some help or the use of a massage tool. A massage cane will help you access this area and ultimately providing pain relief.

When to Avoid Massage

A shoulder massage isn’t always an appropriate treatment for shoulder pain. Before you start massage, talk to your doctor for a diagnosis and ensure that massage isn’t contraindicated. If the shoulder tissues are inflamed or you have frozen shoulder you’ll want to avoid massage. Massaging a frozen shoulder can cause it to flare up and cause additional pain.

Be sure to talk to a physical therapist or other medical professionals before starting massage

Safe Massage Therapy

Massage for shoulder impingement can be a safe treatment when done by a trained massage therapist. Massage works to release tension while stretching tight muscles can ease pain and improve range of motion. As always, if you are experiencing shoulder pain, talk to your doctor before you seek massage treatment.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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