What Causes Rotator Cuff Impingement & Bursitis?

Article by John Miller

rotator cuff impingement

Rotator Cuff Impingement

Rotator cuff impingement and the bursitis it causes has primary (structural) and secondary (posture & movement related) causes.

Primary Rotator Cuff Impingement – Structural Narrowing

Some of us are born with a smaller sub-acromial space. Conditions such as osteoarthritis can also cause the growth of sub-acromial bony spurs, which further narrows the space.

Because of this structural narrowing, you are more likely to squash, impinge and irritate the soft tissues in the sub-acromial space, which results in bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis.

Secondary Rotator Cuff Impingement – Dynamic Instability

Impingement can occur if you have a dynamically unstable shoulder. 

This means that there is a combination of excessive joint movement, ligament laxity and muscular weakness around the shoulder joint.

This impingement usually occurs over time due to repetitive overhead activity, trauma, previous injury, poor posture or inactivity.

In an unstable shoulder, the rotator cuff has to work harder, which can cause injury.

An overworking rotator cuff fatigues and eventually becomes inflamed and weakens due to pain inhibition or tendon tears.

When your rotator cuff fails to work normally, it is unable to prevent the head of the humerus (upper arm) from riding up into the sub-acromial space, causing the bursa or tendons to be squashed.

Failure to properly treat this instability causes the injury to recur. Poor technique or bad training habits such as training too hard is also a common cause of overuse injuries, such as bursitis or tendonitis.

FAQs about Rotator Cuff Impingement

  • What Techniques are used by Physiotherapists?
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • When Should Diagnostic Tests Be Performed?
  • What are the Different Massage Styles and their Benefits?
  • How Does Kinesiology Tape Reduce Swelling?
  • How Much Treatment Will You Need?
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What Can You Do To Help Arthritis?
  • What Causes Rotator Cuff Impingement & Bursitis?
  • What is a Tendinopathy?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Scapulo-humeral Rhythm?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What is the Correct Posture Standing?
  • What is the Shoulder Impingement Zone?
  • What is Your Rotator Cuff?
  • What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When Can You Return to Sport or Work?
  • Impingement Related Conditions

  • Acromioclavicular Joint Injury
  • Bicep Tendonitis
  • Broken Shoulder (Fractured Humerus)
  • Bursitis Shoulder
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Muscle Strain (Muscle Pain)
  • Rotator Cuff Calcific Tendinitis
  • Rotator Cuff Syndrome
  • Rotator Cuff Tear
  • RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury
  • Shoulder Arthritis
  • Shoulder Dislocation
  • Shoulder Impingement
  • Shoulder Tendonitis
  • Swimmer's Shoulder
  • Contact PhysioWorks Book Online


    Go Back
    Last updated 22-Apr-2014 10:08 PM

    Receive Special Offers and the Latest Injury Information

    Enter Details Below to Signup: