Pain in or around the shoulder can have many different causes, typically they are related to muscles, joints or nerve problems. In this article we look at symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is typically a musculoskeletal (involving joints and muscles) complaint that affects individuals across various age groups. Understanding the common causes of shoulder pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. Here is a general overview of the most frequent causes of shoulder pain, including rotator cuff injuries, shoulder impingement syndrome, osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder, and dislocation.
Shoulder muscle injury (rotator cuff injury)
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that stabilise the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff injuries are among the most common causes of shoulder pain. These injuries can occur due to acute trauma or repetitive activities. The most common rotator cuff injuries include tears and tendinitis. Rotator cuff tears involve a partial or complete tear of one or more of the tendons, while tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendons. Risk factors for rotator cuff injuries include ageing, repetitive movements, and occupations or sports involving overhead motions. At Skelian, we believe it is vitally important to gain an accurate diagnosis of what is causing your shoulder pain. Muscle and tendon injuries around the shoulder are common but due to these muscles having their own roles to play with the shoulder, understanding the diagnosis will help us develop the best approach for your condition.
Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or irritated as they pass through the subacromial space. This can lead to pain, weakness, and restricted shoulder movement. The condition is commonly associated with repetitive overhead activities, such as throwing or lifting. Structural abnormalities, such as a hooked acromion or bone spurs, can also contribute to impingement. Other risk factors include poor posture, muscle imbalances, and age-related degenerative changes. Most commonly the infraspinatus and the supraspinatus are the muscles involved in impingement. At Skelian our Specialist physiotherapist can help accurately diagnose the cause of a shoulder impingement using ultrasound coupled with orthopaedic tests during your examination.
Osteoarthritis, (a degenerative joint disease) can affect the shoulder joint and lead to shoulder pain. It is characterised by the breakdown of cartilage, resulting in joint inflammation, pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Primarily osteoarthritis can occur due to ageing and “wear-and-tear”, while secondary osteoarthritis may result from previous trauma, repetitive use, or underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Risk factors for shoulder osteoarthritis include advancing age, obesity, joint overuse, and genetic predisposition. At Skelian we have treatment options to help manage arthritis in the shoulder alongside home exercises and possibly lifestyle advice. If you have not been formally diagnosed with arthritis, we have diagnostic options to confirm the cause of your shoulder pain such as MRI scan referrals or ultrasound.
Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition identified by stiffness, pain, and limited shoulder movement. It typically progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. The exact cause of a frozen shoulder is unclear, but it can develop after a shoulder injury, prolonged immobilization, or certain medical conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disorders. The condition is more common in middle-aged individuals. A frozen shoulder can take a while to improve. More information can be found on our frozen shoulder page. (link to frozen shoulder page)
Shoulder dislocation occurs when the humeral head (top of your arm or ball) comes out of the glenoid socket (cup-shaped socket for the ball to sit in). It can cause intense pain, swelling, and instability of the shoulder joint. Anterior dislocation is the most common type, often resulting from trauma or excessive external rotation of the arm. Posterior dislocation is less common and may be associated with seizures or electric shock injuries. Recurrent dislocations can occur in individuals with loose shoulder ligaments or previous dislocations. If you have dislocated a shoulder from an injury, it is best that you seek immediate medical attention to relocate the shoulder joint as soon as possible. Once the shoulder has been relocated and you are starting the recovery process, we can help by giving you a rehabilitation plan to help strengthen the shoulder joint again to help prevent instability or laxity in the shoulder following a dislocation.
Treatment for shoulder pain
Overall shoulder pain can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the common causes of shoulder pain, such as rotator cuff injuries, shoulder impingement syndrome, osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder etc, is important for effective management or diagnosis of the condition. Our practitioner at skelian can help by identifying and possibly addressing the underlying cause of shoulder pain, if it is a condition we can help. The main aims of treatment are to always help improve an individual’s pain, restore shoulder function, and improve their overall well-being.
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