Our shoulder joints are a brilliantly clever design and the single most moveable joint in the human body. Anchored by back and arm muscles, strong tendons and hardy ligaments, they allow the arm to move and rotate easily, even under heavy load. However, this same movement and load can allow for injury and shoulder pain when we least expect it.
What problems are likely to cause shoulder pain and what can we do about them?
Shoulder Pain: Injury and Trauma
While we don’t have to be golfing professionals or marathon swimmers to be affected, our shoulder joints can easily be injured through misuse or overuse. Sporting injuries make up a majority of shoulder injuries, with one of the most common being a rotator cuff injury.
Rotator cuff tendons have a stabilising role and link the shoulder blade to the arm bone. Trauma to these tendons can result in one or more of them pulling away from the bone and tearing – which means pain and shoulder weakness for you. Alternatively, the tendons may become inflamed and cause discomfort and weakness. While these tendons can heal with rest and cortisone treatments, they often need surgery to correct the problem. Rotator cuff tears should be checked out by a qualified orthopaedic surgeon. If left untreated you may experience friction between the bones of the shoulder which can be incredibly painful and lead to arthritis. Golfers are at particular risk of rotator cuff injuries – as well as back and wrist issues – due to the nature of their sport
Dislocation of the shoulder can occur during an accident or if the joint is overused in sports, especially those which require a throwing motion of the arm. Partial dislocation or full dislocation, with the head of the upper arm being completely out of its socket, can be tremendously painful and requires immediate attention.
Swimmer’s Shoulder is defined by Stop Swimming Injuries as follows: “Shoulder injuries may include rotator cuff impingement — pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade or scapula as the arm is lifted. Biceps tendinitis (painful inflammation of the bicep tendon) and shoulder instability, in which structures that surround the shoulder joint do not work to maintain the ball within its socket, all can result from fatigue and weakness of the rotator cuff and muscles surrounding the shoulder blade.” Good swimming techniques can prevent most shoulder injuries and should be taught to swimmers from a young age.
Shoulder Pain: Degenerative Conditions
The sad fact is that as we age, our muscles and joints become more fragile and prone to damage and disease.
Osteoarthritis is one such condition which commonly affects people over the age of 50. This is a gradual wearing away of the cartilage in the body which removes the necessary space between bones. The result can be painful movement as the bones rub against each other.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also common in older people. The lining of joints throughout the body become inflamed, and sufferers experience pain and stiffness in the extremity joints such as hands, wrists, shoulders and knees.
Continual damage to the rotator cuff can also result in degeneration of the tendons and the joint surface which cannot be reversed, and will require ongoing treatment.
Treatment for Shoulder Pain
Whether you prefer rest and ice, physiotherapy or you choose to go straight to your orthopaedic surgeon to get checked out, we strongly recommend treating your shoulder injuries sooner rather than later.
Most good orthopaedic surgeons will exhaust all non-invasive measures to treat your condition – including advice on prevention or cessation of what is causing the damage. (Such as weightlifting, poor athletic techniques, etc.)
Arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) is often used to diagnose and treat the problem area. This is a preferred treatment with a short recovery time and benefits by less blood loss and smaller incisions.
If you are suffering from acute or chronic shoulder pain, why not pay us a visit. We endeavour to see our patients within 24 hours of making the call, and we would love to assist you. Contact your nearest practice today.