Shoulder Pain Symptoms and Causes

Although many people will speak of shoulder pain, in reality the shoulder is comprised of several joints combined with various tendons and muscles. This provides us with the wide range of motion our arms have. We can scratch our backs with the right movement, or throw a perfect pitch on the baseball mound.

Unfortunately, all of this mobility comes with a pretty hefty price tag to it. From increased problems of instability to a pinching feeling of the most excruciating pain, it is all thanks to our shoulders. The pain may only be present when you move your shoulder, or it could hurt on a regular basis. Either the pain is temporary, disappearing in a relatively short period of time, or it can be continuous, requiring medical attention.

The majority of shoulder problems revolve around the soft tissues, tendons, ligaments and muscles, while the bones themselves have very little to do with it. These problems find themselves grouped into 3 major categories: tendonitis or bursitis, injury or instability and arthritis.

The tendons are cord-like connectors between muscle and bone or other tissue. As a result of the wearing process taking place over the years, the result is tendonitis. Generally it will be one of the following types:

  • Acute tendonitis caused by overuse. Usually related to sports or work related activities.
  • Chronic tendonitis. As a result of a degenerative disease, or wear and tear due to the patients age.
  • Tearing or splitting of tendons as a result of acute injury, advancing age or degenerative changes. This type of injury or disorder normally affects the rotator cuff, which is the arrangement of muscles and tendons providing motion to your shoulder, as well as stability.

On occasion, excessive use of the shoulder can result in inflammation and swelling of a bursa. Bursas as sacs filled with fluid, located around the joints in order to lessen the friction which may be caused by shoulder movements. It can often occur in association with rotator cuff tendonitis, and be a very painful experience. Luckily enough, with appropriate care this is a condition which will normally resolve on its own.

On occasion one of the bones in the shoulder joint moves or is forced out of its normal position. This condition of instability can result in a dislocation of one of the shoulder joints. Recurring partial or complete dislocations can cause great pain as well as unsteadiness if you raise your arm or attempt to move it away from your body. Trying to lift your arm over your head can be uncomfortable, and could leave you with the feeling of having what is often described as a 'dead' arm.

Arthritis: This is yet another reason you could be feeling shoulder pain. With the many types of arthritis, it's still a case of wear and tear changes of the joint, coupled with inflammation which causes swelling, stiffness and pain. Again, this could be work or sports related.

After seeing your physician, they will likely refer you to an orthopaedist for a follow-up. There you will be asked for a medical history, details about your condition such as pain, when and how severe you feel pain and other questions to assist in providing a proper diagnosis.

Treatment normally involves a change in activities, rest as well as physical therapy to assist with shoulder strength and flexibility. You may also be given medication to reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain.



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