The shoulder is a very large and complex joint, and it is in almost-constant use throughout our day. This joint is the junction of the humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade) – plus the connective tissues.
A ball-and-socket joint, the bones that meet at the shoulder socket are connected by the glenoid labrum. This is a fibrocartilaginous ligament that was previously (and erroneously) assumed to be cartilage.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
Sometimes pain in the shoulder isn’t caused by an issue with the shoulder itself, but is rather a result of an injury to a different area of the body – such as the neck or biceps. Common conditions that can cause pain in the shoulder are:
- Shoulder impingement
- Swollen bursa (bursitis)
- Torn cartilage
- Torn rotator cuff
- Pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder
- Bone spurs
- Dislocated shoulder
- Frozen shoulder (painful stiffness)
Structures of the Shoulder
With its wide range of motion, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. The joint permits the shoulder to move forward, backward, in a circular motion, and up and away from the body.
The structure in the shoulder that gives it this range of motion is the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is composed of four distinct tendons that anchor the muscles to bone; if one of these is damaged or inflamed, this can make raising or rotating the arm difficult and painful.
Injuries to the shoulder can be sustained through trauma associated with an accident, manual labor, playing sports, or repetitive motions such as constant overhead lifting. The soft tissues that surround and support the shoulder wear out as we age, making them more prone to injury.
Diagnosing Shoulder Pain
To diagnose the cause of a shoulder injury, a doctor may order an X-ray to rule out bone spurs or fractures. If none are present, the doctor will order an MRI to see whether there is any soft-tissue damage present in the shoulder.
The physician will take into account your profession, any activities you participate in on a regular basis, and whether you’ve been involved in an accident (and may not have realized you were injured). The doctor will always use the most noninvasive treatments first and work from there, if necessary, to see what helps you feel better.
Treating Shoulder Pain
Doctors try conservative measures first to provide pain relief. These options may include:
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Sling (to immobilize the shoulder)
- Pain-relief medications
- Corticosteroid shots
If surgery is necessary, it can likely be done arthroscopically. This technique makes healing much faster than with traditional open surgery.
Sports Medicine Doctor in Panama City, Florida
If you or someone you know suffers from shoulder pain, see a skilled orthopedist who will give you the best options available.