Acromion Pain: Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Acromion Pain: Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Acromion pain, often referred to as shoulder pain, can be a debilitating condition that affects people of all ages. It can result from various causes and significantly impact one’s daily life. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of acromion pain, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to manage and alleviate acromion pain.

Understanding the Shoulder Anatomy

Understanding the Shoulder Anatomy

Understanding the anatomy of the shoulder is essential for comprehending how it functions and for diagnosing and treating shoulder-related injuries and conditions. The shoulder is a complex and highly mobile joint, consisting of several bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other structures. Here’s a breakdown of the key components of shoulder anatomy:


  • Humerus: The upper arm bone that forms the “ball” of the shoulder joint.
  • Scapula (Shoulder Blade): A triangular bone that rests on the back of the ribcage and provides an attachment point for several muscles.
  • Clavicle (Collarbone): A long, slender bone that connects the sternum (breastbone) to the scapula.


  • Glenohumeral Joint: The main shoulder joint, where the head of the humerus articulates with the glenoid fossa of the scapula. This joint allows for a wide range of motion but sacrifices stability for mobility.
  • Acromioclavicular Joint (AC Joint): The joint where the clavicle meets the acromion process of the scapula.

What is Acromion Pain?

“Acromion pain” typically refers to discomfort or pain in the area of the shoulder known as the acromion. The acromion is a bony process that extends from the scapula (shoulder blade) and forms part of the shoulder joint.

Causes of Acromion Pain

Acromion pain can result from various causes, including:

  • Impingement Syndrome: One of the most common causes of acromion pain is shoulder impingement syndrome. This occurs when the space between the acromion and the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) narrows, often due to inflammation or overuse of the rotator cuff tendons. This narrowing can lead to the tendons becoming pinched or irritated, causing pain in the acromion area.
  • Rotator Cuff Tears: Tears or damage to the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles, which attach to the greater tuberosity of the humerus near the acromion, can also cause pain in the acromion region.
  • Bursitis: Inflammation of the subacromial bursa, a fluid-filled sac located beneath the acromion, can lead to pain around the acromion. Bursitis is often associated with impingement syndrome.
  • Fractures: Fractures of the acromion or nearby bones can cause localized pain in the acromion area.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis of the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) or the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) can lead to pain in the acromion region.
  • Muscle Strains: Injuries or strains to the muscles and tendons around the shoulder, including the deltoid and trapezius muscles, can cause referred pain to the acromion.

Common Symptoms of Acromion Pain

Common Symptoms of Acromion Pain

Acromion pain, often associated with conditions like shoulder impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, or bursitis, can manifest with several common symptoms. These symptoms can vary in intensity and may include:

  • Shoulder Pain: The most noticeable and common symptom is pain in or around the acromion area. This pain can be sharp, dull, aching, or throbbing and may worsen with certain movements, such as raising the arm overhead or reaching out to the side.
  • Pain with Arm Movement: Pain often occurs or worsens when you lift your arm, particularly when reaching upward or outward. Activities like reaching for objects on a high shelf or throwing a ball may exacerbate the pain.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Acromion pain can restrict your ability to move your shoulder through its full range of motion. You may find it challenging to lift your arm above shoulder level or to reach behind your back.
  • Shoulder Weakness: Muscle weakness in the affected shoulder may accompany acromion pain. This weakness can make it difficult to perform tasks that require shoulder strength, such as lifting heavy objects or participating in sports.
  • Popping or Clicking Sensation: Some individuals with acromion pain may experience a popping or clicking sensation in the shoulder when moving the arm. This can be due to irregular motion caused by impingement or inflammation.
  • Swelling and Tenderness: In cases of bursitis or inflammation, there may be noticeable swelling and tenderness around the acromion area. The skin might feel warm to the touch.

Distinguishing Acromion Pain from Other Shoulder Issues

Distinguishing acromion pain from other shoulder issues can be challenging because the symptoms of various shoulder conditions can overlap. However, there are specific characteristics and clinical indicators that can help differentiate acromion pain from other shoulder problems. Here are some key points to consider:

Location of Pain:

    • Acromion Pain: Pain is typically localized to the top of the shoulder, near the acromion process, and may radiate down the arm or into the neck.
    • Rotator Cuff Tear: Pain is often felt deep within the shoulder joint and can radiate down the arm. Weakness in arm abduction (raising the arm to the side) and external rotation (rotating the arm outward) is common.
    • Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis: Pain is centered within the shoulder joint and may worsen with movement. Stiffness and limited range of motion are common.

Aggravating Movements:

    • Acromion Pain: Pain is typically worsened by overhead activities, reaching out to the side, or lifting objects. Pain may be relieved when the arm is at rest.
    • Rotator Cuff Tear: Pain is often aggravated by lifting or reaching, especially when lifting the arm away from the body. It may also hurt at night when lying on the affected side.
    • Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis: Pain is typically aggravated by any shoulder movement, and stiffness is prominent, especially in the morning.

Diagnosing Acromion Pain

Diagnosing Acromion Pain

Diagnosing acromion pain involves a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional, typically an orthopedic specialist or a shoulder specialist. The diagnostic process includes several steps to determine the cause of the pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Here’s an overview of the steps involved in diagnosing acromion pain:

Medical History

The healthcare provider will begin by taking a detailed medical history. They will ask you about your symptoms, when they started, the location and nature of the pain, any recent injuries or activities that might be contributing to the pain, and your medical history, including any previous shoulder problems or surgeries.

Physical Examination:

    • The healthcare provider will perform a physical examination of your shoulder, including assessing your range of motion, strength, and stability.
    • Specific tests may be conducted to assess the integrity of the rotator cuff tendons, the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, and the acromion itself.
    • The provider may palpate (feel) the shoulder to identify areas of tenderness or swelling.

Imaging Studies:

    • X-rays: X-rays can help identify any bony abnormalities or fractures in the shoulder, such as acromion spurs or fractures.
    • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI provides detailed images of the soft tissues in the shoulder, including the rotator cuff tendons, bursa, and ligaments. It can reveal tears, inflammation, or other soft tissue abnormalities.
    • Ultrasound: Ultrasound imaging can be used to assess the integrity of the rotator cuff tendons and identify areas of inflammation or fluid accumulation.
    • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: In some cases, a CT scan may be used to obtain detailed images of the shoulder bones and joints.

Treating Acromion Pain

Discover the various treatment options available for acromion pain, ranging from non-invasive methods to surgical interventions.

Conservative Treatment Options

Here are common conservative treatment options for acromion pain:

  • Rest: Resting the affected shoulder is often the initial step in managing acromion pain. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain, especially those involving overhead movements or heavy lifting.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a crucial component of conservative treatment. A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve flexibility, and correct any biomechanical issues contributing to the pain. Exercises may include stretching, range of motion exercises, and resistance training.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. These medications should be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider and according to recommended dosages.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the subacromial space (the area beneath the acromion) can provide short-term relief from pain and inflammation. These injections are typically administered by a healthcare provider and may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Surgical Interventions

The choice of surgery depends on the specific diagnosis and the patient’s circumstances. Here are some common surgical interventions for shoulder conditions:

  1. Arthroscopic Debridement:
    • Indications: This minimally invasive procedure is often used to treat mild to moderate cases of impingement syndrome, where there are inflamed or damaged soft tissues in the subacromial space.
    • Procedure: The surgeon uses small incisions and arthroscopic instruments to remove damaged tissue, release tight ligaments or tendons, and create more space in the subacromial region.

Home Remedies and Self-Care

While professional medical evaluation and treatment are crucial for managing acromion pain and other shoulder issues, there are several home remedies and self-care strategies that can complement medical care and help alleviate discomfort. Here are some self-care measures you can consider:

  • Rest: Give your shoulder adequate time to rest and recover. Avoid activities that exacerbate your pain, especially those involving repetitive or overhead movements.
  • Posture Correction: Maintain proper posture, especially while sitting or working at a computer. Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain over time.
  • Ergonomics: Make ergonomic adjustments to your workspace to reduce strain on your shoulders and neck. This may include adjusting chair height, monitor position, and keyboard placement.
  • Gentle Range of Motion Exercises: Perform a gentle range of motion exercises for the shoulder as recommended by a physical therapist or healthcare provider to prevent stiffness. Avoid any movements that cause pain.
  • Sleep Position: If sleeping on your side aggravates your shoulder pain, try sleeping on your back or using a pillow to support your arm and shoulder.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Modify activities or hobbies that may contribute to your shoulder pain, such as avoiding heavy lifting or repetitive overhead motions.


In conclusion, acromion pain is a common ailment that can significantly impact one’s quality of life. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, individuals can take proactive steps to alleviate pain and improve their shoulder health. Whether through conservative treatments, surgical interventions, or lifestyle modifications, managing acromion pain is possible.

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