What is shoulder decompression surgery?


Arthroscopic subacromial decompression, also called shoulder decompression surgery, is a treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome. In this condition, the rotator cuff tendon becomes caught between a bone called the acromion and the ball-joint of the shoulder. It is characterized by inflammation, pain and reduced range of motion.

When It Is Used

  • Shoulder decompression surgery is used when medical management, such as medications, cortisone injections and physical therapy, have not remedied the condition.


  • Arthroscopic decompression surgery involves making small incisions to insert a small camera under the skin to visually examine the shoulder tissues. After the examination, bone spurs that are damaging the shoulder tissues may be removed using the arthroscope.


  • According to the Cleveland Clinic, arthroscopic shoulder decompression is a low-risk procedure. It may result in post-operative infection, bleeding, nerve damage or shoulder stiffness, however.


  • The recovery period may last between a few weeks to a few months before the symptoms are fully resolved. Your doctor may prescribe a mild painkiller for the first week following surgery.

Physical Therapy

  • You may be advised to see a physical therapist following surgery, or given exercises to do to minimize swelling.

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  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Josh Pesavento
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