Shoulder Impingement: The Benefit of Physical Therapy

left shoulder pain

A Guide to Physical Therapy for Shoulder Impingement


Physical Therapy (PT) is an important treatment option for those dealing with injury, chronic pain, or limited mobility due to age or disability. Physical therapy helps patients regain strength and flexibility in the affected areas through a variety of exercises and treatments. This treatment approach also helps individuals with shoulder impingement improve their range of motion and reduce pain. 

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of physical therapy for shoulder impingement, what to expect during PT sessions, what types of exercises you might do, how long recovery takes, and a conclusion summarizing the key takeaways from this article. 

What to Expect at Physical Therapy 

Prior to commencing physical therapy for shoulder issues associated with impingement syndrome, a licensed physical therapist will conduct a range of tests to evaluate your condition. These tests may include assessments of your range of motion, manual muscle testing, or diagnostic imaging such as X-rays or MRIs to determine the root cause of your shoulder pain. Afterward, your physical therapist will create a personalized plan comprised of exercises tailored to address your specific needs, designed to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility in the afflicted area. 

Additionally, your physical therapist may employ hands-on techniques such as joint mobilization or soft tissue manipulation to further decrease stiffness and pain in the targeted region. They may also suggest lifestyle modifications that can assist with reducing discomfort and enhancing mobility in the shoulder joint. 

What Types of Exercises You Might Do 

Depending on your condition and goals, your physical therapist may suggest different types of exercises to restore strength and mobility in the shoulder joint as well as other surrounding areas. Some common exercises used in this type of treatment include: 

  • Resistance training: Using weights or elastic bands/thera-bands to increase strength over time 
  • Rotator cuff strengthening: Working on specific muscles such as supraspinatus and infraspinatus that are essential for proper movement within the shoulder 
  • Shoulder stretching: Utilizing various stretches targeting extensors/flexors/rotators to improve flexibility 
  • Range-of-motion exercises: Performing arm circles/active raises/pendulum swings/etc., to work on restoring normal movement patterns 
  • Postural awareness: Working with correct posture while standing or sitting to help minimize strain on the shoulders 
  • Core strengthening: Improving core stability can often benefit people dealing with persistent shoulder pain 

How Long Recovery Takes 

The duration of recovery varies based on one’s individual condition. Progress is typically seen around 6-8 weeks with noticeable improvements in strength and mobility but shoulder pain typically reduces much faster. During this period, it’s crucial to consistently attend prescribed physical therapy sessions and perform recommended exercises at home to achieve the most effective outcome. It’s recommended to rest in between exercise sets to prevent injury or delay in the healing process. 

Successfully rehabilitating from shoulder impingement syndrome involves a comprehensive approach including consistent home exercises and scheduled physical therapy visits. 


Physical therapy effectively treats shoulder impingement syndrome by restoring movement patterns with targeted exercises tailored to individual needs, combined with manual interventions and lifestyle modifications as appropriate. Recovery time varies, but with consistent adherence to a prescribed home program and regular PT visits, significant improvement is usually seen within 6-8 weeks. With guidance, perseverance, and patience, full joint functionality can be regained.