Orthopedic Surgery, Pain Management, Shoulder Surgery

May 6, 2016

Why Can’t I Move My Shoulder or Lift My Arm?


One of the most common causes of pain in your shoulder or arm that makes it difficult to move or lift are rotator cuff injuries.

The group of tendons and muscles in your rotator cuff help provide stability and allow your shoulder to rotate. Injuries to these tendons and muscles can result in pain that is severe enough to prevent you from raising your arm or moving your shoulder, limiting your normal daily activities. There are several types of rotator cuff injuries that can cause varying degrees of pain.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Rotator cuff tendonitis occurs when the tendons in your shoulder joint become inflamed or damaged. This can happen when you do tasks that involve repetitive lifting or when you play sports that require you to move your arms over your head frequently, such as tennis.

Tendonitis can also develop as a result of several minor injuries to the rotator cuff. In addition to feeling pain when you try to move your shoulder or lift your arm, you might also experience persistent pain at night or lose strength in your shoulder. Treatment options for this condition include rest, physical therapy, nonprescription anti-inflammatory medications and minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

Rotator Cuff Tendinosis
Rotator cuff tendinosis also affects the tendons in your shoulder, but tendenosis develops as these structures wear down due to age or repetitive activities. The pain that occurs with this condition typically starts out as mild and worsens over time. Partial and full thickness tears can also develop as tendinosis progresses.

Treatment options for rotator cuff tendinosis include nonsurgical methods, such as anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs and physical therapy. Shoulder surgery is also an option when nonsurgical treatments prove ineffective.

Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff tears can occur if you fall and land on your shoulder or if you lift heavy objects too quickly. Tears can also develop over time as the tendons in your rotator cuff degenerate. Rotator cuff tears can be partial ones in which soft tissue is damaged but not severed or full-thickness tears in which tendons are torn into two pieces.

These tears can cause severe pain when you move your shoulder or lift your arm. Other symptoms include pain when you are lying on the affected side and a crackling feeling when you move your shoulder. Treatment options for rotator cuff tears include rest, limited activities, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or surgery if your shoulder pain persists.

Adhesive Capsulitis
Adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, occurs when the capsule and ligaments in your rotator cuff become inflamed and tighten up, which restricts shoulder movement. Your risk of frozen shoulder increases as you get older or if your shoulder has been immobile for a long period of time due to an injury. Treatment options for frozen shoulder include nonprescription pain relievers and physical therapy, with surgery as a final option for severe cases.

If you are having trouble moving your shoulder or lifting your arm and want to know more about surgical options for rotator cuff injuries, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877)-918-7020. Our orthopedic surgeons will evaluate your injury and recommend the most effective treatment.

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