Shoulders are the part of our body where our collarbone, shoulder blades, and upper arm bones meet.
The shoulder blades have round-shaped sockets in which our upper arm bones perfectly fit on each side of the body. The rotator cuff , made up of four muscles and tendons, holds both of the shoulders in place and protects upper arm bones. It is also responsible for the movements of your arm. Shoulder pain can occur due to many reasons. A sudden fall or accident, overdoing tasks such as painting can lead to it. In some cases, shoulder pain can arise from underlying conditions such as arthritis. It can also radiate from other organs of the body, which is commonly known as referred pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Shoulder Injury?
You can ask yourself the following questions to understand if you have a shoulder injury or not.
- Is your shoulder perfectly fit to perform everyday chores?
- Do you experience a feeling that your shoulder will pop out from its location?
- When you move your arms, do you feel any irritation or stiffness in the shoulders?
Rest for a week along with some home remedies like ice packs and heat can help you get rid of shoulder pain in some cases. You can use a sling to hold your shoulder in its place or elevate it a bit up above the chest.
However, these methods do not work with all the shoulder pain types. Some of them are more severe and require professional assistance. Here are the symptoms that indicate you need to seek medical help as soon as possible to get relief from your shoulder pain:
- The feeling of numbness or weakness in your arm
- Sudden swelling in your shoulder
- Severe or unbearable pain
- Pain that does not let you use the shoulder at all
- You notice deformities on your shoulder joint
What Are the Risk Factors and Causes of Shoulder Pain?
The shoulder is prone to many injuries.
Let us take a look at them one by one.
A hard hit or sudden fall can cause a crack in the bone or it can even break. Most fracture cases occur with arm bone and collarbone. Due to bruising, you may experience severe pain when your bone has a fracture. If the collar bone gets broken, you cannot raise the arm and the shoulder may sag.
Your joint movements are restricted when you have a frozen shoulder. The growth of abnormal tissue bands in the shoulder joint region prevents arm movements and patients experience the feeling of shoulder freezing.
When an accident causes damage to the location where shoulder blades and collarbone meets, separation occurs. If the impact is too much, it may pop out your arm or the socket and cause severe pain and weakness in your arms. Symptoms like numbness, bruising and swelling are also common with this condition.
Our shoulder joint is cushioned by a fluid-filled sac called a bursa. Overdoing the chores can lead to swelling and irritation in it. A fall or accident can also harm it and lead to bursitis. With this condition, you experience pain whenever you move your arm.
Cartilage is rubber padding that surrounds the rim of our shoulder joint. Overdoing the chores, a fall or accident can injure it and lead to cartilage tear. This condition can weaken your shoulder and you may feel the pain while raising the arm over your head.
Sometimes the bones of our shoulders pinch the tendons of the rotator cuff. This condition is called impingement and it can cause pain and swelling in the shoulders. Raising your arms too many times can trigger this condition.
This takes place when your shoulder is twisted or pulled too hard. In this case, the upper part of your arm is thrown out of the socket and causes intense pain and weakness in your shoulder area. Symptoms such as bruising, numbness, and swelling are common with this condition.
Rotator Cuff Tear
We can raise our arm smoothly above the head because of a healthy rotator cuff. Basically, it is the group of tendons and muscles that manages the arm positioning. Overuse of shoulders, sudden falls, or accidents can injure it and lead to rotator cuff tears. This condition is also common in older people as a result of wear and tear in the shoulder joint.
The shoulder can experience pain even if it is perfectly fine. It happens when the pain is radiated from other parts of the body and it is called referred pain. This is the sign of some serious health issues with your liver, heart, gallbladder, or spine.
When bones rub against each other due to lack of fluid, it causes wear on the rotator cuff. This restricts your arm movements and can result in tendinitis or rotator cuff tear if not addressed in time.
The most common type of arthritis, this medical condition is also called degenerative joint disease. Your shoulders and joints are affected due to this and it leads to the breaking of cartridges between the shoulder bones.
Inflammation in the tendons of your rotator cuff causes tendinitis. This is a time-consuming process and grows with time. A sudden fall or accident can lead to this condition.
In this condition, your body’s immune system attacks the defensive lining in the shoulder joint. Extreme pain, numbness, swelling, or weakness can be felt in the shoulders when suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
This is one of the most serious causes of shoulder pain and can be life-threatening. If you experience shoulder pain, difficulties in breathing, and have a feeling of tightness in the chest, seek emergency medical help immediately.
Diagnosis of Shoulder Pain
Pain doctors often carry on physical examination of their patients to rule out the issues and structural problems in the neck or spine. Then, they evaluate the motion range to check the flexibility and strength of the shoulders. Patients may be told to rotate their arms clockwise and anti clockwise, lift arms above the head, and more. In some cases, patients have to undergo one or more of the following diagnostic tests:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
Home Remedies and Treatments for Shoulder Pain
Professional pain doctors are necessary for the shoulder pain conditions such as fracture, separation, and dislocation.
Doctors can adjust the position of the shoulder and attach a sling to keep it fixed while the shoulder heals. For most of the other conditions, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Moreover, you may be asked to take plenty of rest, apply heat or cold to the affected area and use a bandage to ensure safe shoulder movements. Such remedies help patients get rid of pain and swelling in the shoulders. If any of the above-mentioned steps fail to provide relief for your pain, doctors may consider using corticosteroid injections.
These are anti-inflammatory medicines that are injected directly into your shoulder joints to lessen the pain and swelling. Conditions such as rotator cuff tear, cartridges tear, and frozen shoulder are more severe than others. Only medications and rest cannot treat them completely and therefore, pain doctors often suggest surgery as the best solution. Whether you have mild or severe shoulder problems, your treatment plan will involve gentle exercising as it strengthens the shoulder muscles and improves flexibility.
Prevention Tips for Shoulder Pain
We use our shoulders almost all day long.
Whether we are at work, college, home, or the ground, most of our movements involve shoulders. The following steps can help you prevent them from getting injured.
- Do not sit at one place straight for more than an hour. Take a break, walk a bit and get back to work.
- If you have to reach for something over your head and that thing is heavy, use a ladder so that you are in the best position to lift it.
- If your work needs sitting on a chair for a long time, make sure your chair is good enough to support your back and encourage you to maintain a healthy posture.
- Have a word with your doctor to know more about exercises that can improve muscle strength and flexibility in the shoulders.
- If heavy lifting is a part of your job, you have to be extra cautious while lifting things. Make sure you bend your knees to utilize leg power. Also, do not lift anything without facing it and maintain the straight position of your back.
The shoulders are one of the most complicated joints in the human body. This is why they are highly vulnerable to injuries and things like general wear and tear and inflammation can harm them. Treatments of shoulder pain depend on the type and cause of the condition. The best thing about mild shoulder pain is that it can be treated at home with some basic self-care techniques such as rest, ice packs, and over the counter medications. Severe and prolonged shoulder pain needs professional assistance. You must seek immediate medical help if you have dislocation, separation, or fracture.