Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is not a disease or condition in itself, but could be indicative of some kind of injury, strain or an ailment. Whether you workout in a gym lifting weights, or you spend most of your day in front of a computer, you would probably experience shoulder pain at some point of time. Shoulder pain refers to any pain that occurs in and around the shoulder area. The pain may originate from the shoulder joint itself or from the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the joint. In most cases, shoulder pain worsens with any activity or movement that involves use of the shoulder, arm or neck. Shoulder pain may even occur as a result of conditions or disorders that affect structures in the abdomen and chest area. This explains why many individuals with ailments such as gall bladder disease or heart disease often experience shoulder pain. Pain which originates from another area is known as referred pain. This type of pain generally does not get aggravated when there is shoulder movement.

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

Depending on the cause of the problem, shoulder pain may be experienced as sharp, stabbing, cramping or dull. The pain may also hinder movement and can lead to stiffness. In some cases pain arising from the shoulder may extend to the neck. When the pain is severe, weakness is experienced in the affected area. The weakness tends to occur mainly when movement of the affected area causes pain and discomfort. In some cases, the nerves of the area may suffer damage and this could also lead to weakness. During an examination, the doctor will attempt to identify whether the weakness is due to muscle or nerve damage or due to inability to move the area due to pain. When the nerves are bruised or pinched, normal sensation in the area is affected. This may result in a burning sensation or a complete loss of sensation. In many cases, the area also feels numb. When the affected region is cool to the touch, it may mean that the veins or arteries are injured or blocked and as a result there is inadequate blood flow to the area. Discoloration in the shoulder or arm could also indicate that there has been injury to the shoulder or arm. In such cases, bluish or white tinges may be noticed on the skin. In case there is redness, then inflammation or infection may be present. Injuries to the shoulder may also lead to swelling which may also spread to the entire arm. Fractures or inflammation of the bursa may lead to such a symptom. Swelling may also occur if there has been dislocation of the shoulder. Dislocation or fractures may lead to a deformity. Tearing of the ligament can also lead to a deformity wherein the bone structures are placed in an abnormal position.

In case you are not sure what has caused the shoulder pain or what kind of treatment you require, it is best to have yourself medically examined. If you find it difficult to simply move the arm or use it, and cannot carry objects because of the pain it would be advisable to consult your doctor. Medical care is also necessary if the pain occurs at night or at rest, when the pain persists for more than a few days, when there is considerable swelling or bruising, when there are signs of infection such as warmth, redness and fever, and if any other unusual symptoms are experienced.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain usually occurs due to injury to the soft tissues in the area. This includes the ligaments, muscles and tendons. Injury or whiplash may be the cause of pain. Whiplash occurs when there is a sudden movement of the shoulder joint. When whiplash occurs, the ligaments and muscles of the neck and shoulder are injured. Sudden braking or accelerating while driving may also lead to whiplash. Individuals who suffer from degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine may also suffer from shoulder pain as the nerves get pinched. Conditions that affect the spinal cord, lungs, heart and abdominal structures may also result in shoulder pain. A common cause of shoulder injury is a broken collarbone, which occurs when an individual falls on the outstretched arm. This tends to happen to cyclists when they fall off the bicycle. Injuries can also cause the bursa to become swollen and tender. The bursa is the sac which covers and cushions the joints. Injury and fracture to the shoulder blade is another cause of shoulder pain. Sports that involve plenty of throwing often lead to rotator cuff injuries. The tendons that provide support to the shoulder joint are collectively known as rotator cuff. Repetitive movements and activities that involve lots of lifting may also contribute to rotator cuff injuries. Individuals who undergo shoulder separation due to trauma may also suffer from shoulder pain. This occurs when the clavicle or collar bone separates from the scapula or shoulder blade. Tearing or stretching of these ligaments can result in pain. When the tendons swell and become painful, the condition is known as tendonitis. The tendons help to connect the bones and muscles and can get affected due to excessive strain. In some cases, gall bladder disease can also cause referred pain in the right shoulder. Inflammation that develops beneath the diaphragm is another cause of referred pain in the shoulder. Shoulder pain may occur as one of the signs of a heart attack. When such pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, sweating fainting, it is essential to seek immediate medical care.

Remedies for Shoulder Pain

The treatment for shoulder pain will vary depending on the cause. The doctor will evaluate the condition based on the individual’s medical history and physical examination. If necessary, certain types of tests may be prescribed. There is a significant difference between the treatment for mild sprains and more serious conditions such as heart attacks. Treatment for minor strains or sprains may involve a combination of therapies. Medications may be prescribed to alleviate the pain. It may take a few days for the pain to go away completely. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed in some cases. In order to allow healing to take place, the affected area may have to be immobilized. This is usually done with a splint, sling or cast. These are usually worn for some time and then removed. Once the splint or cast is removed, the area needs to be moved regularly so that normal functioning can resume. Elevating the injured area is also beneficial. Adequate rest is essential, when the body has suffered an injury, as continued movement can worsen the injury. In case of severe injury, the individual may need to remain hospitalized for further tests. The patient may also be referred to an orthopedist for more specialized treatment.

Minor injuries of the shoulder may be treated at home. However it is advisable to seek medical care when the cause of the problem is unknown or if the symptoms seem to be worsening. The best treatment in case of mild shoulder pain is rest. Resting the injured area allows it to undergo healing. Two or three days of rest is adequate and may then be followed by light exercise of the area. Ice compresses are also beneficial in alleviating sprains and strains. However the ice must not be placed directly on the skin. It is best to place some ice cubes in a plastic bag and then wrap the bag in a towel. This may be placed on the affected area for about 15 minutes after every two hours. Hot compresses help in treating pain and swelling, but must be used only after the first week. Keeping the area elevated also helps in treating shoulder pain as it relieves swelling. You can rest the area on some pillows. There are also many over-the-counter medications which help to ease pain and discomfort. Certain exercises help to soothe strained muscles and also speed up recovery. However it is advisable to consult a doctor first. One such beneficial exercise for the shoulder is to stand and the bend down till you are facing the floor. Then move the affected arm in circles.

In order to prevent trauma or injury to the shoulders, certain precautionary measures should be taken. It is important to check the house for any potential hazards so that accidents can be minimized. Care should be taken while exercising so that excess strain is not exerted in the shoulder area. While driving or traveling by car, always make sure to wear the seat belt. It is also important not to perform any activity which exceeds your limitations and results in strain.

Diet for Shoulder Pain

Your diet should consist of lots of fresh green vegetables and protein rich foods as these help to strengthen the muscles. Individuals who suffer from arthritis should ensure that their diet supplies them with omega 3 fatty acids as these are beneficial fats that help in reducing pain. These fats may be obtained from oily fish such as tuna and salmon. Nuts and seeds also contain omega 3 fatty acids.

Suggestion for Shoulder Pain

When dealing with shoulder pain in children, it is essential to be extra careful. Many medications such as aspirin and NSAIDS should not be given to children except under medical supervision.

Shoulder Pain Treatments - more information
Shoulder Pain - Frequently asked questions