Whether you are throwing a ball with your kids, getting dressed or reaching for a glass on a high shelf, shoulder pain can compromise even the most basic daily activity. Here is how you can identify the root of your problem and get yourself back to a more active life.
Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint
The shoulder joint is made up of bones held in place by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Tendons are a tough band of fibrous connective tissue that usually connects muscle to bone. They are capable of withstanding tension and help the muscles move the shoulder. Ligaments are the fibrous connective tissue that connects bones to other bones.
Many shoulder problems are caused by the breakdown of soft tissues in the shoulder region. Using the shoulder too much can cause the soft tissue to break down faster as people get older. Doing manual labor and playing sports may cause shoulder problems. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, meniscus and bones of the joint.
The design of the shoulder joint is such that it surrenders a good portion of its stability in favor of mobility. Since the arm is such a major extremity and the shoulder is the joint that plays a central role in the action of the arm, the risk for injury is significant.
Diseases or conditions that involve the shoulder joint (including arthritis such as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis with bone spurs) can also result in pain to the soft tissues and bones surrounding the shoulder or the nerves in the area.
Arthritis is a very common cause of shoulder pain. Arthritis in the shoulder is typically osteoarthritis, which is known as “wear and tear” arthritis caused by repetitive use and begins to appear as you age. Osteoarthritis is also caused by work or sports injuries, continuous movement throughout the years, as well as inflammation of the joint lining caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatments: Physical therapy and extensive range-of-motion exercises can be helpful in relieving pain. Simply resting the injured shoulder can help as well, as long as you do not allow tightness or stiffness in the soft tissues to creep in and make things worse. Your doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce your symptoms. If these treatments do not help, you may need to consider joint replacement surgery.
2. Fracture or Injury
Obviously, if you fracture your shoulder, you will experience pain while the break heals. However, it is very common to experience pain for the rest of your life due to swelling and bruising of the bone and soft tissue. Shoulder fractures often involve the collarbone (clavicle), shoulder blade (scapula) or upper arm bone (humerus).
Fractures and breaks are typically caused by a fall, sports injury or vehicle accident.
Treatments: If the injury is relatively minor, you may need to wear a sling for a few weeks to keep the shoulder immobilized. For more severe injuries, surgery may be needed.
Shoulder instability is essentially when the head of the arm bone (the humeral head) is displaced from the shoulder socket. This is often the result of trauma or serious injury. People suffering instability of the shoulder may experience a slipping or catching feeling in the shoulder or even a complete dislocation where the ball of the arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket completely.
This can cause repeated dislocations as the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the shoulder begin to tear or loosen.
Treatments: Your doctor will manually put the arm bone back into the socket. You will likely need to wear a sling for a few weeks to allow the injury to heal completely. If you experience future shoulder dislocations, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
4. Tendon Inflammation and Tears
Shoulders are used for a wide variety of upper extremity motions and are subsequently prone to injuries from repetitive tasks. This often appears as tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons) and bursitis (inflammation of the bursa).
The bursa is a fluid-filled sac between tendons and bones that allows easy movement. When the bursa is inflamed, the tendons may scrape against the shoulder bones resulting in weakness or tearing.
Tendinitis affects the four rotator cuff tendons most often. When the tendons are inflamed, there is less space for the tendons and muscles to move within the joint.
Treatments: Rest is recommended. If you have suffered an inflammation or tear injury, you will want to avoid positions or activities that cause pain. If pain continues, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection to decrease inflammation and pain, and may prescribe physical therapy as well.
Get Treatment for Shoulder Pain
If you are suffering frequent and debilitating pain and home remedies and treatments have not provided the relief you need, it may be time to consult a medical professional.
The experienced and dedicated orthopedic surgeons at Ventura Orthopedics are here for you. If you are concerned about problems that you are experiencing with your shoulders, talk to the experts at Ventura Orthopedics today. We are committed to helping you shoulder the pain until optimum health, strength and mobility are restored.
Call us today at 800-698-1280 to schedule an appointment.