Pain in your shoulder joints – particularly if it’s unexplained, and you can’t determine the source of the problem – can be one of the most frustrating and painful physical problems to suffer from, especially because there are so many possible reasons for it. Your shoulders are in constant use, and simple tasks like washing your hair, reaching to grab something off a high cupboard or shelf, or even doing basic household maintenance tasks like vacuuming or washing the dishes can cause pain.
Shoulder joint pain can be even more frustrating if you’re an athlete or work a particularly physical job (or both), since it affects your performance as well.
You are more likely to experience shoulder joint pain as you get older. After all, like anything else your joints start to deteriorate as you age, no matter how healthy you are or how much you exercise.
Pain in the shoulder can come on gradually or quickly, and it can range from mildly irritating to downright excruciating. If you have shoulder joint pain when you’re lifting your arms or left or right shoulder joint pain, there are a number of reasons why this could occur.
Even pain in the surrounding neck, upper arm, and elbow areas may originate in a shoulder condition.
The Structure of The Shoulder Joint
Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and it is one of the most flexible parts of your body. The ball and socket is what allows your shoulder to rotate, move, and otherwise let you use your arms and upper body. These two bones are the humerus – the upper arm bone or ball – and the scapula or shoulder blade, which is the socket.
These bones are supported by the deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles, all of which are connected to the bones by a series of tendons and ligaments, and padded by bursa sacs to keep everything moving smoothly (when the shoulder joint is in proper condition, of course).
All of these components combine to form the rotator cuff, which is what keeps your shoulder stable and the ball and socket joint in place. If any of the aforementioned components are out of place or damaged, you may experience shoulder joint pain, shoulder and neck pain, pain in the shoulder blade, or pain in both your elbow and shoulder.
What Causes Shoulder Joint Pain?
There is a wide range of things that can cause shoulder pain; pain in the shoulder joint can be the result of a chronic or pre-existing condition like bone spurs or double-jointed (hypermobile) shoulders.
Your shoulder joint pain could also be caused by repetitive stress or acute injuries, or even just soreness from a hard workout or tough game. Note that the aforementioned activities can also cause soreness or stiffness in the shoulder joint that may not necessarily mean you have a significant problem, but burning pain, sharp pain, and stiffness or soreness in the shoulder joint or neck may be a sign that there is a larger issue at hand.
If your shoulder joint is extremely painful to the point where you can’t move it at all, if your shoulder joint is suddenly swollen or looks deformed (see the “pop-eye” arm problem), or your arm or hand become weak or numb then you need to see an orthopaedic surgeon.
Common Conditions That Cause Shoulder Pain
Often, pre-existing conditions are what is causing your shoulder joint pain.
Frozen shoulder syndrome, shoulder impingement, shoulder tendonitis and shoulder bursitis are all fairly common conditions that can cause shoulder joint pain.
A frozen shoulder limits your ability to rotate or even move your shoulder, and it is caused by adhesions – or abnormal bands of tissue – which then build up and “freeze” the joint. One of the causes of frozen shoulder is shoulder joint pain, because your shoulder is painful to move, you naturally move it less, which lets adhesions build up.
Shoulder impingement is a source of shoulder joint pain occurs when the tendons in your rotator cuff get impinged or pinched in your shoulder bones, causing swelling and pain. Individuals who tend to do a lot of overhead motions or lifting are more prone to suffering from shoulder impingement.
Another condition that can cause shoulder joint pain is shoulder tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the muscles and tendons in your shoulder.
Bursitis of the shoulder occurs when the bursa, or the fluid filled sacs that allow the bones, ligaments, and tendons of your shoulder to glide together and interact smoothly, become irritated, swollen, and painful. Shoulder bursitis is a common repetitive stress injury.
Rheumatoid arthritis may also be a cause of shoulder pain, as well as osteoporosis, the latter of which is especially true as you grow older. Referred pain – when there is a problem with your diaphragm, neck, or other sources can be a source of shoulder pain and may be more complex to diagnose, so you may need referrals to other specialists from your orthopaedic surgeon.
What Are Other Causes of Shoulder Joint Pain?
Shoulder joint pain can be caused by many types of acute injuries as well as more seemingly innocuous activities. For instance, a separation of the shoulder is an injury that affects the acromioclavicular or AC joint, which is where the shoulder blade and collarbone join together.
A hard blow or fall can tear the ligaments holding everything together.
You’ll likely know if you have a shoulder joint separation – if your collarbone is out of place, your shoulder will have a bump on the top near the deltoid muscle.
A dislocation of the shoulder joint will also cause significant shoulder pain. Dislocated shoulders occur when the shoulder is rotated or pulled too hard, causing the ball to pop of its socket. And of course, a shoulder or collarbone fracture will likely also cause intense shoulder pain, as well as a rotator cuff tear or cartilage tear.
If you think that you’ve dislocated, separated, torn, or fractured your shoulder, contact an orthopaedic surgeon immediately.
More mild cases of shoulder pain can be caused by things like poor posture (think being constantly hunched over a computer or desk), straining or pulling a muscle in the shoulder area, or other fairly fixable, less traumatic problems.
Deltoid Pain Relief
One spot in the shoulder joint that can often be a source of pain is the acromioclavicular joint (or AC joint), which is connected to the deltoid muscle, or the cap of muscle at the top of your shoulder. You might be able to relieve mild AC joint pain in your shoulder with ice, rest, and over the counter medication, but if the pain persists you should see an orthopaedic surgeon who will be able to help diagnose and fix the problem.
Non-Surgical Solutions for Shoulder Joint Pain and Deltoid Pain
Mild shoulder pain can often be treated at home with rest, ice, and over the counter pain medication, and you can even wrap or bandage your shoulder to hold it in place and elevate it above the heart. However, if your shoulder joint pain continues and you haven’t had it checked out by an orthopaedic surgeon yet, see one as soon as possible because persistent shoulder joint pain can be indicative of a greater issue.
Physiotherapy for Shoulder Joint Pain
Physiotherapy can also help. An orthopaedic surgeon should be able to refer you to a physiotherapist who can help you determine the best exercise program for your unique problem.
Many shoulder joint pain issues stem from stiffness and a lack of flexibility, usually due to an acute or repetitive stress injury, which causes you to use your shoulder less – because it is healing or it hurts!
A program of gentle exercises, stretching, and massage can go a long towards mitigating shoulder joint pain and getting you back to normal. If you have any kind of shoulder joint pain – especially if it is intense, related to a serious shoulder injury, or if you have had other shoulder joint issues in the past, then it is especially important that you work with a physiotherapist who has experience dealing with the shoulder and upper arm and neck specifically.
Surgical Solutions for Shoulder Joint Pain and Deltoid Pain
Depending on the severity and perhaps more importantly, the source of the pain in your shoulder, surgery may be required, especially if non-surgical solutions aren’t working and you’ve suffered a tear, separation, fracture, or dislocation.
Surgery in the case of long-term conditions frozen shoulder syndrome, shoulder impingement, shoulder tendonitis, or shoulder bursitis tends to only be necessary in more severe cases, or if you are a professional or semi-professional athlete who needs to get back in the game.
Exercises for Shoulder Joint Pain
The type of exercise recommended for shoulder joint pain depends on the source of the pain itself.
A physiotherapist can design an exercise and stretching regimen that you can do to help relieve your shoulder joint pain, whether your problem is mild or you are healing from a more acute shoulder injury or even shoulder surgery.
A properly customised exercise plan can help restore strength to your shoulder muscles, improve coordination, ease stiffness and restore flexibility and range of movement.
It can also help improve your posture, which will help ease your shoulder joint pain and improve your health in general.
Ready to make an appointment and solve the problem of the pain in your shoulder joints? Contact Mr Devinder Garawel today.