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What's an acromial impingement?

Q) My husband has had a lot of pain in his shoulder on and off for a couple of years. He was told by his osteopath that it was chromium impingement and that the treatment was steroid injections. On the day he went to the GP he hadn’t any pain and was told because of that he couldn't have a steroid injection. Can you tell us what a chromium impingement is and give advice on treatment?
Mrs MR Brown, Plymouth, Devon (Winter 2006)

A) I think your husband has misheard the explanation. It's probably acromial impingement your husband has been diagnosed with. The acromion is the bit of bone that sticks out at the side of your shoulder – this ‘lip’ of bone lies on top of the shoulder joint and forms a shelf. When you raise your arm the guiders pulling on the arm may be caught underneath this shelf of bone, causing pain and loss of movement. This is what the osteopath meant by impingement. With time, and advancing years, the guiders become frayed and sometimes become inflamed. When this occurs an injection of steroid will settle the pain down but it won’t cure the condition. The good news is that often the inflammation subsides without any treatment, which is probably what happened in your husband’s case. In chronic cases, some surgeons will perform a decompression operation, where a bit of the acromion is removed to give the guiders more room.


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