causes of shoulder pain

Top Causes Of Shoulder Pain

We all are at some risk of shoulder pain and most of us have experienced it at least once at some point in our lives. Shoulder injuries are the most common of all in the United States that causes people to skip their everyday routine. In fact, the shoulders are the most susceptible parts of our body to injuries. But have you ever thought why? Well… you will now know this as our pain management experts have come up with this blog to help readers understand some interesting information about shoulder injuries and the top causes that may lead to shoulder pain.

Before we get into the main topic, let us first look at what are the different parts of the shoulder.

What Are The Parts Of the Shoulder?

Bones are the fundamental components of our shoulder joints. The functionality of bones is looked after by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Tendons in the shoulder area are made up of hard cords of tissues and they hold the muscles and shoulder joint together. This is highly important for the efficient movements of the shoulder. Ligaments hold the bones present in the shoulder joint together to provide stability.

Causes Of Shoulder Pain

The most common cause of shoulder pain is the breakdown of soft tissues located in the shoulder region. While aging is the most common thing that results in the breaking of tissues, a sudden fall or overuse can also lead to it. Jobs that involve constant lifting of heavy items, sports, intense workouts can break the tissues in the shoulder area and cause injuries. The shoulder pain can be felt in an arm, some points of the shoulder, or the entire shoulder. Some rare medical conditions can radiate pain from other body parts to the shoulder region. Such pain-transmitting diseases are commonly related with:

  • Spine
  • Chest
  • Liver 
  • Gallbladder

Shoulder pain can also arise due to the trapping of rotator cuff tendons under the bony region of the shoulder. It causes inflammation or damage in them. Medically, this condition is known as bursitis or rotator cuff tendinitis.

While shoulders are the most mobile parts of your body, they are among the most vulnerable too. As you grow, they get affected by constant wear and tear and cause pain in most patients. Let us now take a look at the top causes of shoulder pain in a bit of detail.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

As mentioned earlier, rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. According to the recently conducted study, around two-thirds of the total shoulder pain patients in the United States have a rotator cuff injury.

Basically, the rotator cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that connect the shoulder joints and bones. It keeps the ball of the upper shoulder arm in the right socket and supports it when you raise or move your arms. 

Rotator cuff tendonitis is nothing but the inflammation in this cuff area that is often a result of the continuous moving of shoulder arms. In layman’s terms, the rotator cuff is just like the tires of your car. As you keep using it, it gets thinner and thinner and ultimately wears down. The sufferers of this health issue often experience mild pain in the initial phase; however, the pain is more noticeable when they move their arms. With time, the pain gets severe and is active all the time.

Patients can make some modifications in their lifestyle to stop provoking the pain. In short, they can perform some activities to encourage healing in tendons. Overdoing anything can be avoided as it will only aggravate the pain. You can also rely on over-the-counter (OTC) medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen to relieve the pain. Your pain management specialists may recommend some muscle strengthening exercises and physical therapy to maintain the activity in the shoulder region.

Rotator Cuff Tears

Direct trauma to the shoulder such as fall or continuous movements can partially or completely tear the tendons in the shoulder. The pain after the sudden tendon tear can be extremely severe. However, things such as weakness, numbness, stiffness, and pain in the shoulder often come to the notice over time, so most patients overlook it when the problem actually starts.

Tears in the rotator cuff can be treated with OTC medications, plenty of rest, heat, ice packs, and frozen bags. Your pain management doctor may include physical therapies and muscle strengthening exercises to improve the balance and functionality of the shoulder. If it does not get you the desired relief, steroid injections are a good option for short-term relief. You can have a word about such injections with your pain doctor to check if you are a good candidate for them.

Frozen Shoulder

This medical condition is just like it sounds. Frozen shoulder patients struggle to move the shoulder as normal people do due to excessive stiffness and pain. When the tissues that bound your shoulder joints together get damaged, a frozen shoulder occurs. It normally occurs due to the thickening of the connective tissues or inflammation. Unfortunately, the exact cause of this condition is not known just like the reason behind why mid-aged women are more vulnerable to this. Several other things like diabetes, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease can put you at the risk of a frozen shoulder.

This condition does not happen overnight. Pain specialists have categorized it in three different stages given below:

  • Freezing
  • Frozen
  • Thawing

Patients usually notice the drop in the range of motion of their shoulder and it escalates all of a sudden. Luckily, most frozen shoulder patients feel better as more time passes and this happens without any treatment. It may take around 18 months for this condition to completely thaw. If you carry on with your physical therapy program, the time can be cut down; however, it will still be around for a while. In some cases, people end up with frozen shoulders on both sides. Doctors treat the good side first so that it remains in motion.

Labral Tears

It is quite common to hear about how pro athletes miss the game due to a tear in the labrum. To begin with, the labrum is the rim of cartridges that covers the edge of your shoulder socket and encourages stability and movements for the shoulder. However, it is highly vulnerable to injuries, making this cause one of the most common ones. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the half-aged men and women have experienced tears in their labrum due to excessive use of the shoulders. Patients do not even realize the tear most of the time as it is completely asymptomatic and does not cause any issues. However, if the tears are deep, they can trigger pain, especially when you try to move the arm. 

While this condition can occur in many ways, the treatment for it depends on the severity level. For mild pain, patients can take NSAIDs, try physical therapy or simply rest for some days. But note that such tears do not usually heal from the root, so the pain can be back. If the severity of the tear is too much, you may require surgical treatments.

shoulder pain or shoulder impingement

Shoulder Impingement

Constant overhead shoulder activities such as swimming can lead to shoulder impingement. In this condition, bursa or shoulder tendons impinge between the shoulder bones and you feel severe pain when you try to move your arm. The pain can be worsened if you sleep on the affected area, try to reach back, and engage in the overhead activity. This ailment damages the rotator cuff and therefore, physical therapy can be tried to strengthen the muscles in the shoulder joints. 

Osteoarthritis

Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is mostly caused due to natural wear and tear. Our bones have a rubber cushioning called cartilage that helps them move smoothly. Osteoarthritis damages these cartilages and makes the bones rub against each other. This can cause swelling and prevent shoulder motions. Patients often find it difficult to lift their arms and also hear snapping or clicking sounds when trying to move the arm. 

Doctors suggest avoiding activities that aggravate pain and have plenty of rest to get relief. NSAIDs, heat, ice, gentle stretching, physical therapy can be great to enhance the balance, motion, and stability in shoulders. If any of these do not work as anticipated, doctors can suggest steroid injections.

Shoulder Instability

Our shoulders are naturally unstable by design, and this is why they can move freely in all directions. When the ball of the shoulder is very loose and tends to move too much around the socket, this is called shoulder instability. Overusing the shoulders can lead to these problems and it is most common with volleyball players, swimmers, and throwing athletes. Just like many other shoulder pain symptoms, it can be treated with some self-care techniques such as NSAIDs, rest, ice, and heat. A physical therapy program can be the best deal for this condition as it strengthens the muscle and maintains the ball positioning in the socket.

Final Words

So, there they are – top causes of shoulder pain. If you or your loved one is experiencing it, make sure you visit a reputable pain doctor near you as soon as possible. Delaying can worsen the pain and make it difficult to get the right treatment.

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