shoulder pain

Common Causes Of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can affect your ability to perform daily chores and thus, it can take a major toll on your overall quality of life. To tackle shoulder pain, it is important to understand this condition first. Shoulder pain comes with different kinds of causes and they exhibit various symptoms. It’s difficult to know the difference between various kinds of shoulder pain conditions like shoulder blade pain, frozen shoulder and more as their symptoms can be similar. It can be caused by muscle tear, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and many other problems, and proper medical care and attention are mandatory in such cases.

Any injury to the shoulder along with some other problems can also result in this kind of pain. If you have a lung or heart condition, that can also lead to shoulder pain in some rare cases. Mild or severe, it is always good to see a doctor for your shoulder pain to avoid further damage.

In this blog, our pain management experts help you with the different aspects of shoulder pain and the appropriate ways of dealing with it.

Understanding The Shoulder And The Shoulder Pain 

Your shoulder consists of three kinds of bones.

  • Humerus (upper arm)
  • Clavicle (collarbone)
  • Scapular (shoulder blade)

The upper arm bone is called a humerus and it fits into the shoulder blade which is called a scapula. The rotator cuffs have the responsibility of holding these parts together, covering and protecting them. We can rotate and move our arms with the help of rotator cuffs.

If any of the parts from the shoulder architecture shows some issues, it results in weakness, instability, and pain in the shoulder. It may be a referred pain — where the pain is caused by earlier damage to the adjacent organs.

Some Common Causes Of Shoulder Pain

Fracture

A strong blow or fall can lead to a crack in the bone or it can even break the bone. Damage to the humerus and clavicle is common in such accidents. 

Patients might feel extreme pain and even worse, such mishaps can lead to bruising as well. With the broken collarbone, it is difficult to perform even the basic shoulder activities. 

Dislocation

Pulling or rotating your shoulder too hard may get your arm out of the socket. In this case, the intensity of pain can be severe and you can experience bruising and swelling in your shoulder area. 

Separation 

A hard blow or fall can tear the ligaments which hold the shoulder blade and collarbone together (acromioclavicular joint). This can lead to a serious injury and if there’s the further pushing of your collarbone out of its place, then it can cause a bump over your shoulder.

Cartilage Tear

If you are into repetitive tasks where you have to move your shoulders, again and again, it can cause injury to your cartilage. You can have that damage due to a sudden blow or when there’s an excessive load on your shoulder. Sometimes it’s tough for your shoulder to absorb all that force and it eventually gets damaged. Even tasks such as reaching overhead can be quite painful in such cases.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder can lead to the limiting of joint movements. Tissues called adhesions get formed in the joint and abstain from the shoulder from further movements. As the name suggests, this can lead to the freezing of your shoulder bone. In most cases, it occurs after surgery as you tend to use your shoulder less. This results in the building of adhesions, making your shoulder immovable and frozen.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Your arm is held in its place by the tendons and the group of muscles in the shoulder which is called the rotator cuff. Lifting your arm is possible with the help of this mechanism. A fall or overuse of the shoulders can slightly damage your shoulders and cause a tear in the rotator cuff. With aging, shoulders begin to show signs of wear and tear and this can also lead to this condition. Patients experience pain due to this, especially when they are lifting some stuff or trying to have that good night’s sleep. You may also hear the cracking sound while moving the shoulder.

Bursitis

There’s a sac in your joint that is filled with fluids and acts as the cushion to your joints — called a bursa. If you are into a repetitive task or doing a certain motion, again and again, you are more likely to notice substantial swelling and irritation to the bursa. This can be caused by falling, a sudden hit, or other kinds of problems. People suffering from bursitis tend to feel extreme pain while moving their shoulders.

Impingement

Passing of tendons of rotator cuff through subacromial space, usually involving the inflammation of tendons (tendonitis) can lead to impingement of the shoulder.

Other Causes

Tendinitis

Tendinitis is an inflammation in your tendons of the rotator cuff. It can happen gradually over time or as a result of a hit to your shoulder or a fall.

Osteoarthritis

It is the most common form of arthritis and is also known as degenerative joint disease. It can affect your shoulder joints. The breaking of cartilage and rubbing of bones against each other results in stiffness and extreme pain.

Referred Pain

Even if you cannot find anything wrong with your shoulder and they are still in pain, this might be a sign of injury to your liver, gallbladder, or heart. 

Heart attack

If you feel stiffness in your chest, troubled breathing, and shoulder pain altogether, make sure to seek immediate medical help as it can be an indication of a heart attack.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

It is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects not just your joint but also causes damage to other organs of your body such as skin, lungs, eyes, blood vessels, and heart.

It happens when your immune system accidentally attacks your body tissues. It can cause stiffness and severe pain in the shoulders.

Bone Spurs

This condition is also called osteophytes. The ability to move the shoulders freely gets diminished in this kind of condition and it can further lead to rotator cuff tear or tendinitis.

When To Visit A Physician Or Pain Experts

In case of some severe pain conditions, it is necessary to seek appropriate medical help from a doctor as soon as possible. patients must be familiar with the symptoms to avoid further damage. Here are some signs you should be looking for:

  • When you are unable to lift or move your arm
  • When it’s difficult to carry the stuff
  • If any swelling or bruising is noticed around your arm or joint
  • When your shoulder pain lasts longer than you have anticipated
  • When you can’t get a sound night sleep 
  • If you notice redness on your skin or other kinds of infections
  • Extreme or intermittent fever

Diagnosis

When you visit your physician, you have to go through a series of physical exams that might look for any structural damage to your organs. Next, the doctor will check the flexibility and strength of your shoulder. Small tests like moving your shoulder across your body, behind the body and over the head, etc are to be done.

Here are some imagining tests you might have to undergo:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan 

This technique involves the use of a magnet and radio waves to give you the exact images of the injured organs.

X-ray

With the help of an X-ray scan, your physician can trace bone problems like arthritis and spurs. After a dye(contrast medium) is injected into the joint, your physician takes the X-ray. It is also known as an arthrogram. 

Electromyography (EMG)

Checking the electrical activity of your muscles can reveal much about any possible nerve dysfunction and muscle dysfunction. The health of motor neurons is evaluated in this procedure.

CT Scan

CT scan stands for computerized tomography scan. A collection of X-ray scans is taken from various angles. After putting them together, your physician can examine the injured part easily. CT scan is proven to be much more efficient in revealing the hidden damage.

Arthroscopy

An arthroscope is an endoscope (small fiber-optic camera) that is inserted into your joints through a tiny hole. The procedure of arthroscopy involves the use of an arthroscope to examine and at times, treat the internal damage done to your organs.

gentle exercises can be helpful to relax muscles

Treatments And Other Remedies

A physician’s help is vital when it comes to fixing your damaged shoulder. In case of separations, fractures, and dislocations, your physician might set you up with a sling till you get better.

In other cases, your physician might prescribe you drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, to diminish the swelling and the pain. No matter what kind of pain you have, enough rest is mandatory. Plus, your physician might use heat or ice to get you some relief In some cases, you may get epidural injections to relieve the pain and swelling. Such injections are usually filled with an anti-inflammatory drug such as corticosteroid

Final Words

Any kind of shoulder pain can harm your well-being. But with appropriate medical help, it’s easier to tackle this problem and get much-needed relief from pain. Try maintaining good postures while sitting, sleeping, and walking. Moreover, some gentle exercises can be helpful to relax muscles and keep the discomfort at bay.

At times your shoulder pain can become much harsh and severe. Do not lose patience and have strong willpower to deal with the pain and overcome it. Never underestimate the presence of the tiny bugging pain in your shoulder as it can get worse with time. It is always a good deal to consult with the nearest pain experts to avoid unwanted consequences.

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