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What is Subacromial Decompression?

Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure aimed at relieving shoulder pain by removing bone spurs or inflamed tissue in the shoulder's subacromial space. This enhances mobility and reduces discomfort during arm lifting. Visualize a roomier shoulder joint, free to move without the pinch of impingement. Intrigued by how this could be a turning point in managing shoulder pain? Discover the transformative journey of subacromial decompression.
J.M. Willhite
J.M. Willhite

Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure conducted to treat sports injuries, such as impingement syndrome. Considered a minor surgical procedure, subacromial decompression is performed when an individual has found no relief with traditional treatment. Individuals who adhere to post-operative instruction and participate in physical therapy generally make a full recovery within a few months following surgery. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with subacromial decompression and these should be discussed with a qualified health care provider prior to pursuing this treatment option.

Commonly caused by overuse, impingement syndrome is a compound injury experienced by athletes that affects the soft tissues of the shoulder and rotator cuff. When the soft tissue of the shoulder joint gets pinched or caught between the bones of the arm and shoulder during repetitive use, it becomes irritated and inflamed. Adversely affecting the muscles of the shoulder, the aggravated area can contribute to muscular imbalance and shoulder instability. Individuals with impingement syndrome may experience symptoms that include pain, discomfort, and a burning or tingling sensation in the shoulder joint and, with time, a limited range of motion.

A doctor may recommend a subacromial decompression procedure to treat shoulder impingement syndrome.
A doctor may recommend a subacromial decompression procedure to treat shoulder impingement syndrome.

Considered an arthroscopic procedure, subacromial decompression is minimally invasive and involves the decompression, or relieving of pressure, of the tendons in the rotator cuff. A tiny camera, called an arthroscope, and equally small tools are inserted into the shoulder by way of two to three small portal incisions. The camera provides the attending physician with an interior view of the shoulder and surrounding tissues, as well as the opportunity to further evaluate the condition of the affected area.

Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure conducted to treat sports injuries, such as impingement syndrome.
Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure conducted to treat sports injuries, such as impingement syndrome.

To relieve accumulated pressure in the rotator cuff, the subacromial bursa, the fluid sac located in the shoulder joint, is removed. Additionally, any fibrotic or scar tissue resulting from extensive irritation is also removed. In order to increase space for the rotator cuff and tendons, the external end of the scapula, called the acromion, is sanded to a flattened surface and a portion of the coracoacromial ligament is removed. Once the decompression is complete, sutures are used to close the incisions.

As with any surgery, there are complications that can occur during or after a subacromial decompression procedure.
As with any surgery, there are complications that can occur during or after a subacromial decompression procedure.

Individuals who undergo subacromial decompression generally make a full recovery in four to six weeks. Pain relievers are usually prescribed to help alleviate post-operative discomfort. Immediately following surgery, individuals are advised to keep their shoulder protected and stable, which may involve the use of a sling or some other method for keeping the shoulder immobilized. Physical therapy is recommended in order to build strength and restore full range of motion to the affected area. Adhering to post-operative instructions is essential to a successful recovery.

An arm sling may be worn to keep the shoulder protected and immobilized following a subacromial decompression.
An arm sling may be worn to keep the shoulder protected and immobilized following a subacromial decompression.

Individuals who follow their physician's instructions and participate in rehabilitation should be able to return to an active lifestyle, including sports, within a few months. Risks associated with this procedure include persistent or recurrent symptoms and impingement syndrome progression characterized by a worsening of associated symptoms. Complications associated with subacromial decompression surgery include infection, heart attack, and stroke.

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    • A doctor may recommend a subacromial decompression procedure to treat shoulder impingement syndrome.
      By: Photographee.eu
      A doctor may recommend a subacromial decompression procedure to treat shoulder impingement syndrome.
    • Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure conducted to treat sports injuries, such as impingement syndrome.
      By: naypong
      Subacromial decompression is a surgical procedure conducted to treat sports injuries, such as impingement syndrome.
    • As with any surgery, there are complications that can occur during or after a subacromial decompression procedure.
      By: redcarpett
      As with any surgery, there are complications that can occur during or after a subacromial decompression procedure.
    • An arm sling may be worn to keep the shoulder protected and immobilized following a subacromial decompression.
      By: elsahoffmann
      An arm sling may be worn to keep the shoulder protected and immobilized following a subacromial decompression.
    • Physical therapy is often recommended following a subacromial decompression to help re-build strength and range of motion.
      By: WavebreakMediaMicro
      Physical therapy is often recommended following a subacromial decompression to help re-build strength and range of motion.
    • People who experience pain, discomfort, and tingling in the shoulder that cannot be a cured through less invasive measures may require surgery.
      By: Rido
      People who experience pain, discomfort, and tingling in the shoulder that cannot be a cured through less invasive measures may require surgery.
    • Complications associated with subacromial decompression surgery may include heart attack.
      By: milan2099
      Complications associated with subacromial decompression surgery may include heart attack.
    • Prior to decompression, the mobility of an impinged shoulder is often limited and painful.
      By: olly
      Prior to decompression, the mobility of an impinged shoulder is often limited and painful.