Orthopedic Surgery, Pain Management, Shoulder Surgery

December 22, 2015

5 Fast Facts About Shoulder Pain Causes and Treatments


According to the World Health Organization, 9% of all adults in the U.S. reported struggling with chronic shoulder pain.*

The shoulder is a complex joint held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Pain in your shoulder can lessen mobility and strength, which can hinder your day-to-day activities. There are several causes of shoulder pain, and each has its own treatment options. Use this list of fast shoulder pain facts to help you discover what is causing your shoulder pain and how to treat it.

1. Most Shoulder Pain Is Due to Aging or Injury
Most shoulder problems occur when the soft tissues in your shoulder break down. This degradation can be a result of a specific injury—like a fall or sports injury—or it may happen over time due to the natural aging process. Overuse can also cause degeneration of the shoulder tissue, and is a very common cause of shoulder problems in athletes. Overuse is especially common in sports where the shoulder experiences repetitive motions, like in tennis or rowing.

2. Shoulder Pain May Indicate an Underlying Disease
Extreme tightness in your shoulder muscles or a breakdown of the soft tissues can cause pain that occurs in a specific spot or shoots down your arms. If your shoulder pain travels down your arm to your elbow or fingertips, it may indicate that a disease is responsible for your shoulder pain. Nerve pain that travels along the shoulder can often be attributed to these diseases:

  • Disorder of the spine
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease

See your physician as soon as possible if you have consistent, shooting arm pains.

3. How Shoulder Problems Are Diagnosed
If you suffer from chronic shoulder pain, consult an orthopedic surgeon. Your orthopedic surgeon will appropriately assess and diagnose your shoulder problems. To narrow down the potential causes of your shoulder pain, your doctor will evaluate your medical history, daily activities, and the results of your physical examination. X-rays, ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance tests may also be ordered if your orthopedic surgeon believes the problem lies within your shoulder bones or soft tissues.

4. Shoulder Pain Treatment
If you are suffering from shoulder pain, use the rest, ice, compression, and elevation method (RICE) to help reduce inflammation and promote healing. After the initial occurrence of shoulder pain, try not to use your shoulder for 48 hours.

Place ice on the problem area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. Always use a thin towel or shirt between your skin and the ice bag or cold pack to protect your skin. Using a compression wrap or bandage should help reduce swelling. Elevate your shoulder above heart level, even while sleeping.

If RICE does not help your shoulder pain, the problem may be deeper than a muscle strain or injury. Make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to get an in-depth diagnosis and a shoulder pain treatment plan.

5. The Most Common Shoulder Pain Causes
Dislocation – When the ball on the top of your arm bone comes out of your shoulder socket, it is called a dislocation. Sometimes your arm corrects itself back into your shoulder, but usually, a doctor must reset your joint.

After a dislocation, your doctor might suggest that you wear a sling to rest your arm. You can also ice it three to four times a day and rebuild the muscles with a prescribed exercise program to prevent further injury. Dislocation is most common in active youths since their tissues are more flexible. Surgery may be needed if dislocation re-occurs or if the tissues around your shoulder are torn by the dislocation.

Frozen shoulder – If your shoulder movement becomes severely restricted, you may be suffering from a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is typically caused by:

  • Diabetes
  • Pinched nerve in your neck
  • Worsening rheumatic disease
  • Lack of use due to chronic shoulder pain

Treatment for frozen shoulder depends on the cause, but may include physical therapy, heat, anti-inflammatory medication, gentle stretching, electrical stimulation of your soft tissues, cortisone injections, or surgery. Shoulder surgery is usually reserved until you stop responding to non-surgical shoulder pain treatments.

Rotator cuff disease – Both tendonitis and bursitis are common shoulder pain causes, and they can occur alone or at the same time. Impingement is a pinching of your shoulder tendons which causes them to become inflamed and irritated. Bursitis occurs when the fluid sac in your shoulder joint is inflamed. It can be caused by a disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or by playing a sport that requires a frequent overhead reaching motion, like tennis.

Rotator cuff disease requires RICE treatment, and your physician may also require ultrasound testing to ensure there is no deeper damage. If your shoulder does not improve within six months to a year, your physician may recommend surgery.

If you need shoulder pain treatment in Arkansas, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 to schedule an appointment with an experienced orthopedic surgeon.

*By RSatUSZ, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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