Updated: Jun 5
The shoulder is a complex joint that is subject to many problems. The shoulder contains three articulations, where two bones come together, and is supported by four muscles. It's an intricate system that must work in perfect harmony to achieve strength and flexibility.
But things can go wrong easily because of the complexity of the shoulder. Sometimes, it's triggered by falling or an accident that injures one of the joints of the shoulder. Most commonly, though, shoulder problems come on after something more innocuous: a little bit of wear and tear caused by repetitive movements over time.
It might not cause immediate pain, but along with pain, you'll start to develop a number of other noticeable issues too. If you know what to look for, it's better to spot shoulder problems early and get help from a Manhattan pain management specialist before it becomes chronic.
Pain and Discomfort
Pain is the most common sign of a problem with your shoulder joint or surrounding tissues. However, the severity of the pain can vary depending on what type of problem you have and how long you've had it. In addition, the location of your pain may also vary based on where exactly in the shoulder it's occurring.
When you move your arm in certain directions, it might hurt or feel uncomfortable. You may experience mild to moderate pain when your shoulders are moved in certain directions that put pressure on the tendons and ligaments surrounding them. This includes movements such as reaching back to grab something and lifting your arm above your head. You might also feel pain when lifting or carrying something heavy with that arm.
Most cases of shoulder pain are temporary and can be relieved with rest. But if you've had pain in your shoulders for more than a week, seek medical attention as soon as possible so your doctor can rule out serious causes of shoulder pain, such as arthritis.
Limited Range of Motion
Loss of mobility can occur when tendons become inflamed due to overuse or repetitive stress on the joint — such as when throwing sports pitches — or when arthritis slowly damages the cartilage within the joint (osteoarthritis).
It's normal for your joints to ache after a long day of physical activity. Still, if you experience constant pain even when you're not moving around much — or if it hurts so much that it makes you avoid certain activities — then it could be a sign of a more serious problem. This type of pain may also come with swelling around the joint and tenderness when touched.
Popping or Clicking
Your shoulder may make sounds that aren't normal for your body when you move it. This can be a sign of looseness in the joint that allows fluid to leak out of the joint space and make noise as it settles back into place after movement has stopped. It's called "crepitus," and it's not harmful but can be annoying.
As with most musculoskeletal conditions, there are many possible causes of shoulder pain. The most common include:
Injuries to the rotator cuff or other muscles of the shoulder girdle
Impingement syndrome (rotator cuff tendonitis)
Dislocation of the shoulder joint
This symptom usually occurs after a strain or sprain has occurred in your shoulder joint and surrounding area. Swelling typically occurs as a result of inflammation and may occur immediately after an injury or may appear days or even weeks later. It can cause intense discomfort when it's present because blood vessels become restricted from swelling.
Painful areas around your shoulders may feel sensitive to pressure and touch. However, this symptom may be absent if your injury is severe enough that there's no feeling left in the injured area at all (which could indicate nerve damage).
Weakness or Instability
There are several muscles in the shoulder area that provide stability during movement. These muscles include rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder joint and provide stability to it while performing various activities such as lifting objects or reaching overhead.
Your shoulders may feel weak and unstable when you raise your arms above your head or rotate them in various directions. The inability to move your arm in certain ways may also indicate a problem with the joints, muscles, or tendons.
Problems with your shoulder usually affect both sides of your body equally and cause muscle weakness on both sides as well. If one side feels weaker than the other, you may have a problem with your shoulder joint or related muscles.
Shoulder Pain Treatment
Shoulder pain can be a symptom of an underlying problem or a condition in and of itself. For example, it can be caused by injury, overuse, poor posture, or other factors. Depending on the underlying cause and severity of pain, treatment options vary from simple to complex.
The first step in treating shoulder pain is getting an accurate diagnosis. This may involve X-rays, MRI scans, or other imaging techniques. The doctor will then explain what's causing the pain and recommend treatment options based on those findings. Your healthcare provider will recommend the treatment option that's best for you based on your medical history and the severity of your injury or illness.
There are many treatment options for the shoulder pain that are non-invasive and non-medication. You may also need a combination of treatments depending on what's causing it. A physical therapist can help you strengthen your shoulder muscles and reduce stiffness, which may ease your pain. Your doctor might recommend a program of stretching exercises and strengthening exercises.
Physical therapy may also provide relief from mild to moderate shoulder pain. A physical therapist can show you how to use heat therapy, ice packs, therapeutic ultrasound devices, and massage techniques to reduce inflammation and relax muscles around the joint.
The goal of physical therapy is to keep your joints and surrounding muscles flexible so they can move smoothly and freely through their entire range of motion without causing pain or damage to the soft tissues around them. The physical therapist will also instruct you on how to strengthen your muscles and how to move your arm without causing further damage to it.
Don't Let Shoulder Pain Become Chronic
Shoulder injuries are not to be taken lightly. If left untreated, it could lead to serious problems later on in life. Seek help from a Manhattan pain management specialist immediately if you notice the signs and symptoms stated above. The sooner you know there is something wrong with your shoulder, the better chance you have of avoiding serious damage to your shoulder.