Millions visit their doctor every year for shoulder injuries, often caused by repetitive movements during sports such as tennis or swimming, or by everyday activities such as carrying groceries, cleaning or gardening.
The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. The shoulder is easily injured because the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. The shoulder joint has been compared to a golf ball and tee. The shallow “cup” would permit the “ball” to slip off if the joint were not given added support by the surrounding soft tissues, namely the ligaments and the muscles surrounding the shoulder that make up the structure known as the rotator cuff. In addition, the three short ligaments that protect the joint are rather inefficient and unstable. As a result, the joint’s stability relies to a great extent on its short, protective rotator cuff muscles, which are easily damaged.
Shoulder pain from strain can be a dull background ache or a sharp pain that severely restricts your movement. Sometimes the pain extends right down to the wrist. It can often waken you from sleep and stretching your arm overhead is particularly troublesome. You may also experience arm weakness. Neck problems can also cause pain over the shoulder blade or in the upper outer arm.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Most shoulder problems are caused by overuse, poor posture, or injury and inflammation of the soft tissues – muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Other possible causes are fractures of the upper arm bone (humerus), collar bone (clavicle), shoulder blade (scapula) or – for reasons that are not fully understood – a build-up of calcium in the shoulder joints. Sometimes the tendons become inflamed because they are pinched by other parts of the shoulder joint, a condition known as impingement.
Many of these problems occur in the muscles and tendons that make up the rotator cuff. If the fluid-filled sac that protects the shoulder joint is also inflamed, this is called synovitis or capsulitis. Also, pain in the shoulder that is accompanied by a tingling sensation in that area is caused by something amiss in the neck region.
If you start to notice symptoms that may be an early sign of frozen shoulder. Moving the shoulder helps to break up scar tissue that may be building up in the joint.
Figuring Out What’s Wrong With My Shoulder
It’s likely your doctor will be able to identify the root of the problem by studying your movements and listening to an account of your symptoms. An MRI scan provides detailed images that will show any thickening in the soft tissues and can also detect the amount of fluid in the joint. It can also highlight damage to tendons and muscles.
Fixing Shoulder Pain
Oral anti-inflammatories my help to alleviate your discomfort.
Physiotherapy is recommended to improve the range of motion.
You may be advised to have an anti-inflammatory injection into the shoulder to relieve the inflammation.
If shoulder problems persist after other treatment options have been tried, your doctor may recommend that you consider surgery.
Surgery can be used to manipulate the joint under anaesthesia, remove loose pieces of bone or a calcium deposit, cut away the scar tissue in a frozen shoulder, or trim bone to prevent impingement. Much shoulder surgery is performed by minimally invasive “keyhole” techniques, which has a faster recovery time than conventional surgery.