Shoulder Impingement in CrossFit Athletes: A Comprehensive Guide

CrossFit, known for its high-intensity, varied workouts, has gained immense popularity among fitness enthusiasts. However, the demanding nature of CrossFit exercises can sometimes lead to shoulder injuries, with shoulder impingement being a common issue faced by athletes. In this blog post, we delve into the causes, symptoms, and treatment of shoulder impingement, emphasizing the role of physical therapy in recovery and prevention.

Understanding Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the narrow passage in the shoulder. This can lead to pain, weakness, and restricted movement, affecting an athlete’s performance and daily activities.

Causes in CrossFit Athletes

CrossFit athletes often engage in repetitive overhead movements like snatches, handstand push-ups, and kipping pull-ups. These activities can increase the risk of impingement by narrowing the subacromial space and causing wear and tear on the rotator cuff tendons.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Key symptoms of shoulder impingement include:

  • Persistent pain, especially with overhead activities
  • Weakness in the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion
  • Pain while sleeping on the affected side

Effective Treatment Strategies

Physical therapy is a cornerstone in treating shoulder impingement, focusing on reducing inflammation, restoring range of motion, and strengthening the shoulder muscles.

Treatment may include:

  • Physical Therapy Exercises: Tailored exercises can help strengthen the rotator cuff and scapular muscles, improving shoulder mechanics and reducing pain.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques like massage and mobilization can improve movement and reduce discomfort in the shoulder.
  • Education on Activity Modification: CrossFit athletes may need to modify their training routines to allow for healing and prevent further injury.

For athletes in San Diego, Oakland, and Des Moines, seeking out a skilled physical therapist who specializes in sports medicine can make a significant difference in recovery and future injury prevention.

Prevention Tips

  • Proper Warm-Up: Engage in a thorough warm-up routine focusing on shoulder mobility and stability before starting intense workouts.
  • Technique Refinement: Work with a coach to ensure proper form and technique in all exercises, especially those involving overhead movements.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate activities that balance the muscle use in your body, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you’re experiencing persistent shoulder pain or discomfort during workouts, it’s crucial to consult with a physical therapist. Professionals in physical therapy near San Diego, Oakland, and Des Moines are equipped to assess your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan.


  • Can I continue CrossFit with shoulder impingement?
    • It’s important to modify your activities to avoid aggravating the shoulder. Consulting with a physical therapist can help determine which exercises are safe to continue and which should be avoided.
  • How long does recovery from shoulder impingement take?
    • Recovery time varies based on the severity of the impingement and the individual’s response to therapy. Generally, with consistent physical therapy, improvements can be seen in as little as a few weeks.
  • Are there specific exercises to avoid with shoulder impingement?
    • High-impact, repetitive overhead movements should be minimized or modified to prevent further irritation of the shoulder tendons.


Shoulder impingement in CrossFit athletes is a manageable condition with the right approach to treatment and prevention. Emphasizing proper technique, regular physical therapy, and appropriate training modifications can help athletes return to their activities pain-free.

For expert guidance and personalized care, consider reaching out to a physical therapist in San Diego, Oakland, or Des Moines who specializes in sports recovery.

Physical therapy not only aids in recovery but also plays a crucial role in preventing future injuries, ensuring athletes can continue enjoying CrossFit safely and effectively. If you’re dealing with shoulder pain or other sports-related injuries, remember that proactive measures and professional assistance can make all the difference.

Oakland, CA Pain Management Clinic

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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