Understanding Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain and Anatomy

The shoulders are one of the body’s most active joints. We use them when playing sports, when, doing various household chores, and in the most simple tasks such as scratching our backs. Because the shoulder play such a central role in movement, they are one of the most common sites for pain to occur. According to a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, almost 1.2 million Americans visit the emergency room for shoulder pain each year, with 9% of the patients reporting their pain to be chronic. Shoulder pain can cause serious impediments to performing daily functions, lowering quality of life.

The clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder blade), and humerus (upper arm bone) are connected by a series of ligaments, cartilage, and tendons to one another and to the muscles responsible for movement. These components can be the site of inflammation, wear and tear, pressure, and dysfunction. These conditions can be the result of a traumatic event, an underlying illness, or develop over time as we age.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Tendonitis and bursitis, occur when tendons are overused and get trapped between the bones and the shoulder or when the bursa (small fluid-filled sacs) gets inflamed. Some symptoms of bursitis include pain with overhead activities or pressure on the upper, outer arm.

Rotator cuff tears occur in the muscles or tendons surrounding the top of the humerus. It can be a result of a sudden injury, or from steady overuse. The tear limits the range of motion of the shoulder and causes weakness and pain in the shoulder.

Superior labrum tears (SLAP) occur in the glenoid ligament in the shoulder joint socket. These are often seen in sports injuries related to overhead or throwing activities.

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is another common cause of shoulder pain due to inflammation, and is characterized by pain and stiffness. This condition can severely limit shoulder movement.

Osteoarthritis, often referred to as the “wear-and-tear” arthritis occurs with aging.

Rheumatoid arthritis, is a form of arthritis where the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation and pain.

Gout occurs rarely in the shoulder. The condition is caused by crystals forming in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.

Shoulder impingement is characterized by difficulty reaching behind the back, pain, and weakness of shoulder muscles. It is a common cause of shoulder pain, which occurs when there is impingement of tendons or bursa. Risk factors for shoulder impingement include repeated overhead activity, including swimming, tennis, and lifting.

Treatment Options

Some shoulder injuries, such as a dislocation or fracture, require the immediate attention of a medical professional. For pain that develops over time, possible treatments include over-the-counter pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, functional strength training, and mindful biomechanics can help to decrease the chances of developing shoulder pain. Physical therapy can be recommended to help alleviate the pain.

If pain persists or gets worse, it is prudent to make an appointment with a doctor so that your condition can be diagnosed and a treatment plan prescribed. Tests such as X-ray or MRI may be performed to determine the cause of the pain and the best course of treatment. A doctor may suggest a course of injections, prescription medication, or surgery, depending on the situation.

The pain management specialists at New York Neurology Associates use a holistic approach where all potential modalities to alleviate pain are incorporated into a treatment plan throughout a patient's life. Any changes to patients’ symptoms will be addressed on an ongoing basis. Integrating lifestyle changes with a range of treatment options allows the patient to minimize degeneration and lay the ground for improvement.

If you or a loved one suffers from shoulder pain, call New York Neurology Associates for more information at (646) 679-6609, or schedule a consultation by clicking the link below.



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