Shoulder Pain: Causes & Cures
Part 2 of 2
The shoulder is a magical thing. It is versatile, rugged, precise and powerful. It allows us the ability to perform daily tasks, even those as mundane as brushing our teeth, holding a child or picking up an object. Unfortunately, because we use it so much, it is often prone to injury or pain. Whether it’s an old sports injury or a buildup of arthritis, most people have experienced shoulder pain.
Today, we are going to add some positivity to the greater dialogue surrounding shoulder joints. Mostly though, we’re going to take a look at the causes behind that creaky shoulder and offer up some remedies and preventative to-dos.
Get to Know Your Shoulder
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex joints in the body, and this curious combination of bones, tendons and muscles is certainly unique. For starters, the shoulder is one of the only joints in the body without a socket, or much of any “bony connection” at all.
It is the most mobile joint in your body, and it relies heavily on the eight stabilizing muscles that surround it. But all that mobility can create a lot of problems. Especially when mixed with poor form, repetitive motions or a lack of rest. The more than 8 million annual shoulder-related doctor visits represent a cacophony of injuries, stresses and restrictions.
What are the most common shoulder patients we see at IMAC? Last week, we talked about the Top Three. Today, we will finish out the heavy hitters list with four more.
Cartilage is not the only thing cushioning the muscles, there are also tendons and bones that surround the shoulder joint. Bursae, or bursa sacs, are small, fluid-filled sacs that serve a critical role in the day-to-day functionality of our hip, knee, and shoulder joints.
Bursitis happens when those sacs become inflamed due to repetitive motion or trauma. Bursitis can cause stiffness and swelling in the affected area, and may be painful to the touch.
Joint damage from osteoarthritis can lead to the formation of bony projections where the bones meet each other. Those are called bone spurs and they can lead to debilitating pain in some cases.
Bone spurs can develop for years without any symptoms and without any need for treatment, but in the most severe cases they can reduce your range of motion and cause significant pain and swelling.
Frozen shoulder has nothing to do with the temperature and everything to do with a lack of mobility.
Your upper arm bone, shoulder blade, and collarbone connect to make up the foundation of what we refer to as our shoulder. But as we’ve already established, there’s so much more to this complicated joint than that! Surrounding all those bones is an envelope of tissue that’s often referred to as the shoulder capsule.
Sometimes, for a variety of different reasons, that shoulder capsule can become tighter over time. And sometimes still, the shoulder capsule can become so tight that it locks up altogether. The result is referred to as frozen shoulder, and it can last anywhere between 6 to 9 months. Don’t worry though, your range of motion does tend to return eventually.
A dislocation can happen if your shoulder is pulled the wrong way or rotated awkwardly enough to allow the top part of your arm to pop out of the socket that’s holding it in place.
Your shoulder doesn’t necessarily have to be fully dislocated to feel the pain either. A slight slippage, or subluxation, can be painful and can often reoccur in the same joint. Either way, you will want to make a visiting a doctor priority number one.
So how can we help? Let’s talk about possible treatments to get you back to full function.
Sometimes therapy is the only non-surgical way to alleviate shoulder pain or recover from any long-term injury. The exercises, stretches and specialized manual therapy techniques entirely dependent on the injury being treated. The pros typically rely on a combination of loosening tight muscles and strengthening weak ones to ease discomfort and strengthen weak, injury-prone muscles.
Recovering from an injury or navigating a life with shoulder pain can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes it can be hard to take the time to rest and recover. It is incredibly easy to revert to lifting heavy things because it is easier than putting in the rest. However, recovery is necessary for healing.
The simplest way to look at it is this: our bodies are made up of red tissue and white tissue. Red tissue is red because of the blood supply to it or within it. Other tissues that are white, like ligaments, meniscus and joint surfaces do not have the abundant blood supply in our body like red tissue does.
Therefore, at IMAC Regeneration Centers, we use therapies such as Platelet Rich Plasma and other cellular options to inject those tissues that cannot heal correctly due to the lack of good blood supply, i.e., the white tissue. From there, we also offer rehabilitative efforts to work in partnership with the cell-based care we deliver.
Over time, when pain becomes dominant in our body, we compensate and break down in other areas that lead to weakness and loss of skill of the affected joint. IMAC’s physical therapists are trained to know how to protect the joint we are trying to heal, while providing challenge to it so it can perform again at normal levels.
We would love the opportunity to visit with you or your loved one about any physical limitations or pain, and work with you to build a treatment plan to get you back to full function, health and life.
Thanks for reading.
IMAC Vice President and Occupational Therapist