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Shoulder Pain: Causes & Cures

Jun 29, 2021 | Blog, IMAC 4 Life

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 are 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? This week, we will cover the Top Three.

COMMON SHOULDER CONDITIONS

Torn Cartilage

Cartilage is the connective tissue found on the ends of the bones that make up the free-moving joints of your skeleton. And, though it is relatively rugged it is far from indestructible.

Sometimes injuries can lead to a tear in the cartilage surrounding the rim of the shoulder joint. There’s no one-type of injury that’s likelier to cause a cartilage tear. Repetitive motions, falls, and direct impacts can all cause a tear. Symptoms include pain at the joint, a catching sensation when moving the shoulder, swelling, or localized discomfort.

Arthritis

Suffering from stiffness and pain? It could be arthritis. No joint is safe from this debilitating condition, and that includes your shoulder.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common types. Very briefly, osteoarthritis causes the cartilage of the suffering joint to break down, while rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disease that specifically targets the lining of your joints. Both are bad news.

Torn Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a foundational building block of the shoulder that’s made up of muscles and tendons. Not only does it insulate the shoulder from injury, but it also allows us to lift our arms over the head. I’d say that’s pretty important.

It is a heavily used soft tissue and it assumes a lot of risk for injury. You can tear it through long-term, repetitive use, but can also sustain a localized injury too. A torn rotator cuff may limit a shoulder’s ability to lift things, or cause a crackling sound when moved.

REMEDIES

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.
Chuck

Chuck Renner
IMAC Vice President and Occupational Therapist