Sports Medicine: Impingement Syndrome

A Spine Center physician reviews an X-ray.

Impingement Syndrome

What is impingement syndrome?

Though it sounds generic, the term impingement syndrome is used in orthopedics to define a condition that results when the tendons in the shoulder’s rotator cuff become irritated and inflamed from contact with the bones of the shoulder. The rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons, keeps the top of your upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.


Weakness, pain, and loss of movement at the affected shoulder are the most common symptoms. You may have difficulty reaching behind your back, and your shoulder may hurt when you are lying on it at night, or you may experience pain when you are doing an overhead movement with your arm. Feelings of grinding or popping may also occur.


Impingement syndrome may be the result of a major injury to the shoulder, but it is often caused by the wear and tear on, and resulting degeneration of, the tissue of the tendon. If you often engage in certain sports or have a job where you lift your arm over your head — baseball, tennis, and house painting, for example — or have an occupation such as construction, where you are lifting heavy materials, you are at risk for impingement syndrome.


“It’s important to get treatment right away for shoulder symptoms like these,” says Robert DeFalco, DO, an orthopedic physician at OINJ. “You don’t want it to get too weak or stiff, which will happen if the area continues to degenerate.”

“When you see your doctor, a physical exam will be performed. Your arm will be rotated into a number of positions, and your strength will be tested. Imaging tests like x-rays — which won’t show a tear in your tendon, but may be able to show what caused it, such as a bone spur, or show a different reason for your pain — or MRIs, which can show the whole structure, may be required,” states Paul Teja, DO, another orthopedic physician at OINJ.

“We’ll often recommend the usual: rest, ice, and physical therapy, which can help restore your strength and flexibility. Anti-inflammatories are a front-line response, as well. At OINJ, if necessary, we can also perform a variety of different surgeries for rotator cuff issues, depending on what the issue is: tendon repair, or the removal of a bone spur, or even a shoulder replacement,” adds Dr. DeFalco.

Why Choose The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey

At OINJ, board certified physicians work collaboratively to come up with the best solutions for you. Using innovative techniques and the most up-to-date research and technologies available, our specialists have one goal: to get you back into the best of orthopedic health. We work with each other, as well as with other partners in your care, to develop the treatment plan that will work for you.

Our multiple office locations that can be reached by one centralized call center make it easy to schedule and get to appointments, and we treat patients of all ages with injuries and orthopedic conditions of all kinds.

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Featured Physicians

Robert A. DeFalco, Jr., DO – Orthopedic Physician

Board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopedic surgery, Dr. DeFalco’s areas of expertise include arthroscopic surgery of the knee and shoulder, articular cartilage transplants, ligament reconstruction, meniscal repair, and orthopedic sports medicine.

Dr. DeFalco completed a sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery fellowship at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, and did his residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) — Kennedy Health System. He received his medical degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, and his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in College Park.

Paul G. Teja, DO – Orthopedic Physician

Board certified by the American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Dr. Teja’s areas of expertise include fractures, arthroscopic surgery of the knee, shoulder and ankle, hip and knee replacements, ligament reconstruction, meniscal repair, and sports medicine.

Dr. Teja completed his residency in orthopedics at the Kennedy Memorial Health System. He received his medical degree from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.

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The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey is a premier multi-disciplinary center offering complete orthopedic care, rehabilitation and pain management services to patients of all ages and activity levels using a customized treatment plan to fit individual needs.

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