Common Causes of Shoulder Pain
From physical jobs to everyday function, your shoulders can actually take quite a beating. However, we usually don’t notice all of the work that we put them through until something isn’t quite right. Sometimes it’s hard to notice a good thing until it’s gone: your shoulder health.
With shoulder injuries come stiffness, soreness, and oftentimes a loss of range of motion. Not ideal. From heavy construction work to cooking dinner to reaching onto that top shelf in your closet, our shoulders really play a large role in many everyday activities. When our shoulder health is compromised, it’s easy to feel in many different ways throughout a normal day.
If you’re one of many suffering from shoulder pain, in this article we address some of the basics to help you understand your condition and jumpstart your healing process.
Overuse-Related Shoulder Injuries
This one tells it like it is: some shoulder injuries come from plain overuse. Maybe you have a physical job that requires frequent heavy lifting or you started an intense workout routine; whatever it is, if you’re overusing the joint, eventually you’ll find your breaking point. Below are two of the most common overuse shoulder injuries.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Your rotator cuffs within each shoulder carry a heavy brunt of the shoulder work that we put these joints through. Essentially, your rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that acts as stabilizers within your shoulder. Sound important? They are!
These cuffs can become strained fairly easily with overuse. For some, it’s a job that requires a good amount of heavy lifting or pounding. For others, the culprits are the sports that require throwing and blocking.
Regardless of how you injured your shoulder, you may be experiencing rotator cuff tendonitis if you begin to feel pain with overhead motion or a loss of strength or motion within your arm. The good news is if you catch this tendonitis early, it’s generally pretty easily treated with some simple rest, ice, and prescribed at-home exercises.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator cuff tears can come from either overuse OR a more traumatic, sudden accident. It’s the importance of treating rotator cuff tendonitis early— if you forego treatment and choose to work or play through the pain, you could be putting yourself at risk to actually tear a ligament. It should go without saying that a torn ligament is much worse than tendonitis. Of course, you can also get a rotator cuff tear from a sudden accident.
Signature symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include shooting pain down the side of your arm from your shoulder as well as pain and weakness within your shoulder, especially with overhead activities.
Though many rotator cuff tears are treatable with ice, rest and a regimented rehab exercise routine, it’s important to seek medical help for an accurate diagnosis as early treatment is key. A delayed approach to rehab may put your tendon’s ability to heal at risk; the longer the rotator cuff goes without treatment with a tear, the more it begins to retract, decreasing your chances at a full recovery. In short: stay on top of this injury! Medium tears tend to respond well to appropriate conservative rehab; seek out a prescribed plan from a professional as soon as you suspect this injury.
Severity Of Shoulder Injuries
Though the injury to the rotator cuff is a common issue, the shoulder is so complex that the severity of these injuries can vastly vary. A “strain” of the muscles or tendons within the shoulder is generally seen as a mild injury, while a tear can be moderate to severe, depending on how much tissue has actually torn. Dislocation of the shoulder, fractures, joint instability, and pinched nerves within the shoulder can also be culprits of pain.
As we mentioned previously, those who have jobs that require heavy lifting and use and those who play impact sports are common victims of shoulder pain and injury. However, it’s worth noting that our shoulders and joints also become more susceptible to injury as we age.
Preventative Care For Your Shoulders
To take better care of your shoulders, keep these two maxims in mind: a range of motion and strength. At-home exercises for shoulder health aren’t necessarily focusing on building muscle, but rather promoting a good, pain-free range of motion and adequate strength to perform day-to-day activities, pain-free.
Bear in mind: these exercises are for preventative care only! If you’re already experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, it’s important to seek care immediately to properly diagnose what’s really going on. From there, a medical professional can point you in the right direction of what exercises may be beneficial to your specific injury.
Bend gently at the waist while engaging your core and keeping your back flat. Let one arm hang down, and gently swing it forward and back 2-3 times. Pause, and repeat the exercises with the same arm side-to-side. Repeat these swings on the other arm.
Facing a wall, stand close enough to touch it easily. Reach one arm out to your side and lean into the wall as your mobility and comfort allow. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder as you lean further in. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat on both sides as needed.
Other small (yet significant) things that you can do at home to help with good overall shoulder health include: maintaining good posture, avoiding overhead movements for rest, and avoiding carrying heavy bags on one shoulder.
Professional Care For Shoulder Injuries
A trained practitioner can help to properly diagnose your shoulder injury, which is a huge part of receiving the correct care. Once properly diagnosed, a personalized treatment plan will be mapped out, likely incorporating chiropractic treatment, massage, and physical therapy.
These natural treatments address the root cause of your pain and provide real, lasting relief. Through adjustments of the spine, neck and extremities, gentle exercises and massages, shoulder health therapy begins to realign your body and help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and actual healing to take place. With consistent treatments, your healing time may be reduced and quality of life increased. Your practitioner can also help you work in appropriate at-home exercises to accelerate the healing process outside of office hours.
Whether you’re working through a shoulder injury currently or looking to get help proactively, don’t accept pain as a way of life. Schedule an appointment online or call (480) 787-0469.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.