The shoulder is the most movable joint of the human body. However, it is also the most unstable joint for the range of motion it facilitates in the arm. The instability often leads to pain-causing discomfort. Shoulder pain is the most common problem people of all age groups experience.
So what exactly is shoulder pain?
Simply put, it’s a pain in and around the shoulder. That is to say, shoulder pain can be specific to a particular location or can be felt in areas around the shoulder and arm. The shoulder pain ranges from a minor ache to chronic pain, depending on the underlying cause. While some may experience persistent pain, some may face pain only while moving the arm.
However, it causes physical discomfort and restricts the free movement of the arm.
Before we dive right into the causes, it’s essential to understand the structure of the shoulder for better understanding.
The shoulder joint comprises of 3 bones, Clavicle, Scapula, and Humerus. The Humerus is an upper arm bone that fits in the round socket of the shoulder blade. A rotator cuff keeps your arm bone in place and allows it to move freely.
Now, the rotator cuff is made of tendons that cover your Humerus to the shoulder blade. Together, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments form an essential part of the shoulder. While the tendons connect the muscles and bones and assist in shoulder movement, liga[ments connect these bones to offer stability.
Pain arises whenever a problem, injury, or infection occurs in either of these parts of the shoulder.
What are the causes of shoulder pain?
The cause of shoulder pain could be varying. Numerous conditions and factors contribute to shoulder pain.
- Tendon tears.
The reason for this could either be an acute injury or shoulder overuse in older people. The repetitive use over time, degenerate the tendons attachment with bones. The extent of tear and rupture causes pain. It becomes difficult to lift or move an arm with injuries in the tendon.
It is an inflammation in the shoulder tendons. The reason for it could be manual work, sports, or old age. The pain varies from acute to chronic, depending on the condition.
The repetitive wear and tear in the shoulder joints cause osteoarthritis. It causes swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and immense pain. Such symptoms show signs of chronic tendinitis.
A sudden injury can force Humerus out of the shoulder socket. This dislocation is mostly partial; however, in many cases, the bone comes all the way out of the socket. It is called a complete dislocation. Besides, shoulder instability causes frequent dislocations.
Bursae are the fluid-filled sacks acting as a cushion between bones and tissues. Excessive shoulder use can lead to inflammation and pain. It is difficult to perform regular activities because of it.
When the shoulder bone cracks or breaks completely, it causes a fracture. It causes severe pain and calls for immediate doctor care.
- Frozen shoulder
When the shoulder joint doesn’t have enough space to move freely, it causes a frozen shoulder. It causes swelling and stiffness, thereby restricting movements.
The underlying cause of shoulder pain is not always related to the shoulder. That is to say; our brain may refer to the pain emerging from other parts as arising from the shoulder. It is known as referred pain and generally originates from nerve-related problems.
While most shoulder pain subsides with time, it is essential to consult the doctor in various situations.
When to consult a doctor?
- When the pain becomes unbearable.
- Besides, consult a doctor immediately if the pain occurs without any reason.
- When you cannot rotate or move the arm at all.
- When the direct injury results in bruises and heat around joints.
- Lastly, consult the doctor if the shoulder pain reoccurs and makes your arm feel week.
How is Shoulder pain treated?
Shoulder pain is addressed based on the diagnosis. It includes the study of medical history, along with physical examination tests. Doctors may also conduct various tests like X-ray, MRI, arthrogram, arthroscopy, and CT scans to understand the cause of shoulder pain.
The treatment for shoulder pain ranges from home care to surgery, depending on the condition.
Doctors prescribe medicines to reduce inflammation and swelling. Besides, it also helps in instant pain relief by relaxing muscles. However, pain killers are harmful in the long term.
This manual therapy is often used to treat misalignments in our joints, bones, and muscles. It is very popular amongst people for its significant results. It can help you improve the effects of postural syndrome. It corrects your postures and eliminates the pain emerging from it. Apart from it, it is beneficial for treating misaligned rotator cuffs and cuff tears. All in all, you can opt chiropractic over traditional care for your shoulder pain.
- Physical therapy.
It is useful for people who face regular dislocations. Besides, even older people use PT to improve the stretch and function of shoulder joints.
Surgery might be essential to repair torn tissues and scars. In case of severe cuff tears and recurring dislocation, surgery is the only choice.
It is the best treatment for quick healing. A sling or shoulder immobilizer is used to avoid shoulder movements. It relaxes the muscles and improves mobility.
The painful area is compressed with bandages to stabilize the shoulder.
- Ice packs.
Applying ice cubes, ice packs, and frozen gels to affected areas reduce swelling and offer relief in pain.
Tissues and muscles degenerate with age. And, it becomes difficult to recover the movements of the shoulder altogether. All in all, the combination of two or more of these treatments can offer relief from shoulder pain.
To sum up, shoulder pain is the most prevalent medical condition faced by people across the World. This pain in the musculoskeletal system restricts our free movement of the arm. It is essential to address it adequately to regain our functionality.