What are the Causes of Shoulder Pain?
Shoulder pain is discomfort or soreness in the shoulder joint or surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as injury, inflammation, or degeneration of the joint. Symptoms may include stiffness, weakness, and limited range of motion. Treatment options may include physical therapy, medications, and in some cases, surgery.
In this article, we will discuss the causes of shoulder pain, how shoulder pain is treated, and why it is important to have your shoulder pain attended to.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
There are many potential causes of shoulder pain, which are mostly dependent on your lifestyle, such as whether you are an athlete or a trainer. You may experience shoulder pain depending on your activity levels and how high impact your movements may be. In any case, it is important to consult with a medical professional to determine the cause of the pain so that the most appropriate treatment plan can be determined.
Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and muscles, becomes inflamed. Bursitis can occur in any joint in the body, but it is most common in the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Bursitis of the shoulder is also known as subacromial bursitis.
Symptoms of bursitis may include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joint, as well as a reduced range of motion. The pain may be worse when the joint is used or when pressure is applied to the area.
Bursitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including overuse, injury, infection, or underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It may also occur as a complication of other conditions, such as tendinitis or gout.
Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon, which is the fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Tendinitis can occur in any tendon in the body, but it is most common in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and Achilles tendon.
Tendinitis is often caused by repetitive motions or overuse of the affected tendon. It can also be caused by a sudden injury or by an underlying medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of tendinitis may include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area, as well as a reduced range of motion. The pain may be worse when the muscle is used or when pressure is applied to the area.
A tendon tear in the shoulder is a condition in which the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone is damaged or ruptured. This type of tear is most common in the tendons of the rotator cuff, which are a group of four muscles and tendons that attach to the shoulder blade and help to lift and rotate the arm. A rotator cuff tear can occur due to injury, overuse, or degeneration of the tendons over time.
Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear may include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the affected arm. The pain may be worse when lifting or reaching overhead and may be accompanied by a popping or snapping sensation.
Shoulder instability can occur when the upper arm bone (humerus) is not properly aligned with the shoulder blade (scapula). This can lead to pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion in the shoulder.
Shoulder instability can be caused by a number of things, including dislocation or injury, repetitive motions and overuse (especially overhead motions), and muscle weakness.
Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the joints, which can cause pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. There are several types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones within the joint wears down over time. This can cause the bones to rub against each other, leading to pain and stiffness in the shoulder.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder, as well as the destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint.
Post-traumatic arthritis occurs after an injury to the shoulder, such as a fracture or a dislocation; it can lead to degeneration of the joint and chronic pain.
All types of arthritis are underpinned by similar symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.
A fracture refers to a break in a bone, which can cause a significant amount of pain and disability. Many kinds of fractures can affect the shoulder, such as collarbone fractures, humerus fractures, and scapula or shoulder blade fractures.
The symptoms of a shoulder fracture may include pain, swelling, and tenderness over the affected area, as well as difficulty in moving the shoulder. Treatment for a shoulder fracture may include rest, immobilization in a sling or cast, and physical therapy to help regain strength and range of motion. With serious fractures, surgery may be necessary to repair the fracture or to fix the bone in place with screws, plates, or rods.
Shoulder Pain Treatment
Treating shoulder pain is necessary to alleviate discomfort and restore function to the shoulder joint. If left untreated, shoulder pain can lead to chronic pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Additionally, shoulder pain can be indicative of an underlying injury or condition that may require medical attention to prevent further damage or deterioration.
Activity changes are a common treatment for shoulder pain and can include a variety of modifications to your daily routine. Some examples of activity changes that may be recommended to alleviate shoulder pain include:
- Rest: avoiding activities that exacerbate pain, such as overhead reaching or heavy lifting, and allowing the shoulder to rest can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
- Physical Therapy: exercises and stretches designed to improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion in the shoulder can help alleviate pain and prevent future injuries.
- Improving Posture: this can help reduce strain on the shoulder and alleviate pain.
There are a wide variety of medications that can be used to treat shoulder pain in the short term.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen and naproxen, which can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Acetaminophen can also be used to alleviate pain but does not have anti-inflammatory properties.
Corticosteroids are another medication that can be used to treat inflammation and pain and are often administered as injections or taken as tablets. Muscle relaxants can also be used to help relax tight or spasming muscles in the shoulder, thereby reducing pain.
Medication should be taken under the supervision of a medical professional and should not be seen as a long-term solution.
In severe cases of injury, such as serious fractures or when other treatment methods have failed, surgery may be an option for the treatment of shoulder pain.
Various surgical procedures for shoulders exist and can include arthroscopy, rotator cuff repair, a total shoulder replacement, joint reconstruction, and shoulder arthroplasty.
Surgery is generally considered to be a last-resort treatment, especially as healing time can be significantly longer and additional care and therapy are often required after surgery. Because of this, it is always important to discuss with your surgeon the potential benefits, risks, and recovery expectations before making a decision on having surgery. Your surgeon will be able to provide you with personalized recommendations based on your specific condition and overall health.
How OPA Ortho Can Help with Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is a common complaint and is experienced by many, but nonetheless, it can have a significant impact on your daily life and mobility. It is important to have your shoulder pain seen as soon as you can so that the cause can be ascertained and you can begin your healing journey.
OPA Ortho can help you with any questions you may have regarding shoulder pain.
We have a variety of resources to assist you in understanding the causes and treatment options of your shoulder pain, as well as methods and treatments to get you moving again with less pain. Contact us today to see how we can assist you.