Shoulder pain can be uncomfortable and can interfere with your activities of daily living. When it sticks around for too long, it can really put a damper on your day-to-day life. If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, you may be wondering what can be done about it. Fortunately, there are several treatments available for shoulder pain that can help get you back to feeling your best. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of shoulder pain and how to get relief.
- Repetitive overuse of muscles and tendons
- Poor shoulder posture and mechanics
- Overload, such as lifting something too heavy
- Trauma, falls and ICBC-related accidents
- Immobility due to shoulder surgery
- Lack of muscle stability
- Osteoarthritic changes of the shoulder joint
The most common symptoms of shoulder pain are:
- A dull ache that radiates down your arm and into your hand
- Limited range of motion in the shoulder joint
- Swelling and redness around the joint
- Difficulty sleeping on the affected side and morning stiffness
- Numbness in the fingers or hand
- Weakness in the affected arm
Common Conditions That Cause Shoulder Pain
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Rotator cuff injuries are typically caused by overload or repetitive motions such as throwing or lifting weights, falls, sports injury or accident. The rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or damaged under the bony area in the shoulder. This can lead to pain when moving your arm, such as reaching up to grab items off shelves, putting on a jacket or throwing a ball.
Shoulder impingement is a condition that occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become irritated and inflamed, which results in trapping of the tendons in the joint space.
Calcific tendonitis is a condition in which calcium deposits form in the tendons of your shoulder, leading to sudden and sharp pain. It typically occurs after a period of injury. The condition may be difficult to diagnose because of its similarity to other causes of shoulder pain, such as rotator cuff injuries and bursitis.
Bursitis is a painful inflammatory condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs of the shoulder joint. These protective bursae cushion the tendons, ligaments, and bones around the shoulder area. When they become inflamed due to repetitive use or injury, they can swell, sending sharp shooting pains into the shoulder area.
Bone spurs are thickenings on the surface of a bone which can cause shoulder pain. They are caused by wear and tear, prolonged irritation of the shoulder joint, or diseases such as arthritis. While some bone spurs may be asymptomatic and require no treatment, some can cause significant pain that radiates through the arm, neck and shoulder. If left untreated these spurs can eventually worsen over time leading to further discomfort and decreased range of motion in affected areas.
The shoulder joint is highly complex and composed of many different structures. When this joint is impacted and forced out of its normal position, the result can be a fracture.
The 2 most common shoulder fractures are a clavicle or collar bone fracture and fracture of the humerus, the longest bone in the arm.
A frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a most uncomfortable and painful condition that causes a significant loss of motion in the in the shoulder. In most cases, it develops gradually over time and worsens with lack of use, making everyday activities such as washing your hair or getting dressed difficult.
Shoulder dislocations are a common occurrence, and they can be extremely painful. This is because when the shoulder joint comes out of its normal position, the ligaments and tendons surrounding it are stretched beyond their normal boundaries. This can lead to muscle spasms and pain that radiates through the chest, arm, shoulder and neck areas.
Shoulder muscle strain is one of the most common causes of shoulder-related issues and it can be hard to diagnose due to the complex musculoskeletal network around the shoulder joint. Muscle strains happen when muscles are overstretched or overloaded, resulting in tears in muscle fibers that cause pain along with other symptoms like swelling, stiffness, and reduced mobility.
Osteoarthritis is a common condition that causes the deterioration of the cartilage protecting and cushioning the shoulder joint, resulting in bony changes of the joint. Without adequate cushioning, the ends of the bones rub against each other during movement, causing friction and pain.
Cervical Nerve Pain
Cervical nerve pain is an uncomfortable and often debilitating condition that can cause shoulder pain. It happens when a nerve in the neck becomes irritated, pinched or compressed. Signs of cervical nerve pain include chronic shoulder pain, tingling or numbness in the arm, hand or shoulder, muscle weakness, and difficulty with arm movement.
When Should I See a Physiotherapist?
If you are experiencing ongoing shoulder pain due to injury, post-surgery, poor postural alignment, lack of mobility and strength, a diagnosis with an effective treatment plan and exercise program can regain function and prevent future problems.
Treatments for Shoulder Pain
This is performed by specially trained physiotherapists who apply targeted stretches and techniques to loosen muscles and increase mobility of joints, to ensure optimum healing and relief from pain. Joint mobilization serves to restore joint range of motion and correct alignment.
Massage is an effective treatment which works to improve muscle extensibility, loosen thickened tendons and reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint area. Massage improves blood circulation to decrease joint stiffness, muscle tightness, and swelling from tension or injury.
Laser & Ultrasound
This type of treatment is beneficial in that it can reduce pain, inflammation and alleviate joint stiffness. Laser works by emitting a focused beam of light to the affected area which reduces pain, while Ultrasound delivers sound waves deep into tissue which help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Laser and ultrasound provide fast relief with long lasting results.
Exercise rehabilitation rebuilds muscles weakened by painful injuries and increases range of motion. It is also used to strengthen the areas around the shoulder such as the neck, back, and shoulder blade muscles. Rehabilitation should always begin with a detailed evaluation and assessment by a qualified Physiotherapist or Kinesiologist. They will provide a treatment program that includes exercises specifically designed to improve flexibility, strength, and endurance. Over time, these exercises will help improve functional ability with respect to activities of daily life.
Kinesio-taping utilizes specially designed tapes to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. It supports the muscle and joints to promote healing. By lifting the skin very slightly and creating a decompressive effect, Kinesio-taping can provide relief from shoulder pain. Patients can wear kinesiotape comfortably and continue to perform activities of daily life.
Acupuncture & IMS
Acupuncture and Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) have both been proven to effectively treat shoulder pain. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself and to reduce inflammation in the affected area. IMS is a therapeutic technique that works to encourage blood flow and reduce pain by gently releasing thickened tendons, tight muscles, and scar tissue.
Shockwave therapy is an effective treatment option for those struggling with shoulder pain namely, chronic tendonitis, calcific tendonitis and active muscle trigger points. This non-invasive procedure produces soundwaves that penetrate the soft tissue and stimulate healing and repair in the affected area, thereby reducing inflammation, and aiding in the regeneration of damaged tissue. Patients typically report a decrease of pain within 1-2 weeks following shockwave treatment, along with improved function in the affected area.