As a fellow cyclist, Dr Desmond speaks about the relation between shoulder impingement and cycling. Find out how you can take care of shoulder impingement, stay active while giving your body time to recover, and some forms of treatment available.
Can Cycling Cause Shoulder Impingement
Yes, cycling can cause shoulder impingement. Cycling is an endurance sport, and rides often last more than an hour. The load placed on the shoulders can thus be quite considerable.
This is especially so for the rotator cuff, which is a key stabiliser of the shoulder. The position of the upper limb on the bike also narrows the subacromial space that the rotator cuff passes through, which can worsen a shoulder impingement.
What Is Shoulder Impingement
Shoulder impingement is characterised by shoulder pain, weakness and reduced range of movement of the affected shoulder. It is due to the inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon due to the load placed upon it and attritional damage as it passes under the acromial arch.
Is It Ok to Cycle With Shoulder Impingement?
Cyclists with shoulder impingement should seek medical treatment. Your doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis and exclude other possibilities to render the correct treatment. Persisting to cycle with the pain may make the condition worse. Therefore, it is best to always heed the advice of your medical practitioner.
How to Maintain Your Fitness Without Making Worsening Your Condition?
If you are suffering from a shoulder condition but want to stay active while giving your body time to recover, try alternative exercises that do not place a load on the upper limbs. For example, one can take up running or activities that avoid overhead movements.
In general, activities that worsen the impingement will lead to pain, so I would advise avoiding any exercise that triggers the pain.
How Do You Rehabilitate a Shoulder Impingement?
The first step in rehabilitation would be avoiding further damage or aggravation by avoiding painful activities. The next step would be physiotherapy to address the weakness and reduced range of movement.
A good physiotherapist will also look for other contributory factors and address those as well. Finally, subacromial decompression surgery may be needed to improve the available space under the acromial arch.
What Happens If Shoulder Impingement Is Left Untreated?
Untreated shoulder impingement can worsen. This may be seen as an increase in the symptoms felt. It can also be increasing stiffness, progressing to a frozen shoulder which often requires more than a year to improve.
In more severe cases, the mechanical attrition can actually lead to a tear of the rotator cuff, which will need surgical treatment. In fact, mechanical attrition like that encountered in impingement is widely accepted as a cause of rotator cuff tears.