Shoulder pain is an extremely common complaint, and there are many common causes of this problem. It is important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms so that appropriate treatment can be directed at the cause. If you have shoulder pain, some common causes include:
Bursitis | Rotator Cuff Tendonitis These conditions are closely related and may occur alone or in combination. If the rotator cuff and bursa are irritated, inflamed, and swollen, they may become squeezed between the head of the humerus and the acromion. Repeated motion involving the arms involving shoulder motion over many years, may also irritate and wear down the tendons, muscles, and surrounding structures.
Tendinitis is inflammation (redness, soreness, and swelling) of a tendon. In tendinitis of the shoulder, the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon become inflamed, usually as a result of being pinched by surrounding structures. The injury may vary from mild inflammation to involvement of most of the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it may get trapped under the acromion. Squeezing of the rotator cuff is called impingement syndrome.
An inflamed bursa is called bursitis. Tendinitis and impingement syndrome are often accompanied by inflammation of the bursa sacs that protect the shoulder. Inflammation caused by a disease such as rheumatoid arthritis may cause rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis. Sports involving overuse of the shoulder and occupations requiring frequent overhead reaching are other potential causes of irritation to the rotator cuff or bursa and may lead to inflammation and impingement
· Rotator Cuff Tear The term "rotator cuff" refers to a group of four tendons that blend together as they attach to the upper end of the arm bone (humerus). Normally these tendons provide motion and stability. The most commonly affected tendon is that of the supraspinatus muscle. Defects in the rotator cuff can come from an injury (cuff tear) or from degeneration (cuff wear). Degenerated tendons are often frail and retracted and may not be amenable to repair. Individuals that are elderly, smokers, or those having had cortisone injections often have weaker tendon tissue that fails without a significant injury. By contrast those whose tendon was torn by a substantial fall often have good quality tendon that can be repaired if surgery is performed promptly after the injury. The symptoms of rotator cuff disease include difficulty lifting the arm. Repair of a rotator cuff requires that the tendon be securely anchored to the bone at surgery and that the repair be protected for several months during healing.
· Frozen Shoulder As the name implies, movement of the shoulder is severely restricted in people with a "frozen shoulder". It is frequently caused by injury that leads to lack of use due to pain. Rheumatic disease progression and recent shoulder surgery can also cause frozen shoulder. Adhesions (abnormal bands of tissue) grow between the joint surfaces, restricting motion. There is also a lack of synovial fluid, which normally lubricates the gap between the arm bone and socket to help the shoulder joint move. It is this restricted space between the capsule and ball of the humerus that distinguishes adhesive capsulitis from a less complicated painful, stiff shoulder. People with diabetes, stroke, lung disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease, or who have been in an accident, are at a higher risk for frozen shoulder. The condition rarely appears in people under the age of 40.
· Shoulder Instability
Instability is a problem that causes a loose joint. Instability can be caused by a traumatic injury (dislocation), or may be a developed condition.
· Shoulder Dislocation
A dislocation is an injury that occurs when the top of the arm bone becomes disconnected from the scapula.
· SLAP Lesion A SLAP (superior labrum anterior to posterior) tear occurs when the cartilage of the shoulder (labrum) delaminates from glenoid. This causes an instability of the shoulder, typically in overhead movements
The SLAP lesion is also a type of labral tear. The most common cause is a fall onto an outstretched hand.
· Arthritis In arthritis of the shoulder, the cartilage of the ball and socket (glenohumeral joint) is lost so that bone rubs on bone. It may be caused by wear and tear (degenerative joint disease), injury (traumatic arthritis), surgery (secondary degenerative joint disease), inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis) or infection (septic arthritis).
· Shoulder arthritis is less common than knee and hip arthritis, but when severe may require a joint replacement surgery.
What are the best treatments for shoulder pain?
The treatment of shoulder pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment program. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment.
Not all treatments listed here are appropriate for every condition, but may be helpful in your situation.
· Rest: The first treatment for many common conditions that cause shoulder pain is to rest the joint, and allow the acute inflammation to subside. It is important, however, to use caution when resting the joint, because prolonged immobilization can cause a frozen shoulder.
· Ice and Heat Application: Ice packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments for shoulder pain.
· Stretching: Stretching the muscles and tendons that surround the joint can help with some causes of shoulder pain. A good routine should be established
· Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is an important aspect of treatment of almost all orthopedic conditions. Physical therapists use different modalities like IFT, SWD, US to reduce pain and advise exercises to increase strength, regain mobility, and help return patients to their pre-injury level of activity.
· Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, are some of the most commonly prescribed medications, especially for patients with shoulder pain caused by problems such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis.
· Cortisone injections: Cortisone is a powerful medication that treats inflammation, and inflammation is a common problem in patients with shoulder pain. Discuss with your doctor the possible benefits of a cortisone injection for your shoulder pain condition.