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Upper arm pain is one of the most common shoulder issues experienced by everyone, based on lifestyle and where the pain is forming. Shoulder and arm pain is different for many and can range from mild tenderness to unbearable pain. Upper arm pain from bicep tendonitis and tenodesis is particularly familiar to many athletes. 

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain, which can lead to certain surgery and other treatment options can be caused by a range of activities and lifestyles. 

  • Manual labour jobs 
  • Contact sports (eg. rugby)
  • Non-contact sports (eg. tennis)
  • Previous injuries 
  • Accidental sudden shoulder movements

Think about the types of injuries or problems that arise from repeating the same movements over time, from playing sports to repeated harsh manual labour at your workplace. Sudden traumatic injuries, such as shoulder fractures and dislocations that require immediate medical attention are often causes of upper arm pain or shoulder pain when lifting your arm. It’s essential that if you experience a shoulder injury like this to receive medical attention immediately.

Older Gentleman in Shoulder Pain

Upper Arm Pain Symptoms 

If your upper arm hurts when you raise or lift it, then you should see your orthopaedic surgeon to discuss possible treatments. This may include anything from special exercises to significant physiotherapy or even surgery. Upper arm pain  symptoms look to speak to your doctor about include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion 
  • Swollen muscles

What Contributes To Shoulder Pain?

Overuse is considered the most common cause of shoulder pain and can cause issues like shoulder bursitis, bicep tendonitis, and impingement. Melbourne Arm Clinic’s experience in shoulder pain can also identify these as major impacts to shoulder pain:

  • Weak muscles
  • Improper or poor technique
  • Overly strenuous training 
  • Previous injuries (which can cause degenerative problems)

Calcium deposits can also build up in the shoulder and cause calcific tendonitis and associated pain. Joint shoulder instability (particularly in the late teens or early twenties) can also cause pain in the upper arm or shoulder. These can be a result of how the joint developed, or from a strong force or major injury that caused your shoulder to dislocate or sublux, resulting in shoulder dislocation and therefore pain when you move it.

Man Swinging Golf Club Over Shoulder

Does Minor Discomfort Require Treatment?

It’s important to remember that even if your pain is not immense, it’s still essential to speak to your doctor to understand why you’re in pain and how to treat it accurately. Minimal upper arm discomfort, rather than pain, can lead people to believe that it will pass in time, however this is not always the case. 

Unfortunately, shoulder pain is likely to magnify in its uncomfort over time and is equally as problematic as traumatic shoulder pain. If the inflammation in your upper arm is extremely severe, it may present itself even worse at night. This inflammation can even wake you from deep sleep or prevent relaxation altogether. Contact our surgeons today to understand your pain better, and the treatments available for your pain. 

Sport and Shoulder Pain

Unfortunately, sports that involve overhand movements, such as passing a ball can often cause shoulder and upper arm pain. Sport related shoulder pain can be attributed to contact and noncontact sports that are heavy on impact. Playing contact sports, such as football can commonly result in shoulder dislocations. Shoulder bursitis, strains and impingement oftenly occur in water based sports and tennis. 

Older Gentleman Playing Tennis, About to Serve An UnderHand Ball.

Diagnosing The Cause of Upper Arm Pain

Majority of the frustrating causes of upper arm and shoulder pain can be diagnosed by orthopaedic surgeons. Our surgeons have decades of experience in diagnosing the root of your injury, and how to balance treatment with your livelihood.  We discuss your medical history and complete a physical exam. X-rays, MRIs, and arthrograms are easily performed when required.

Several shoulder conditions causing Upper Arm Pain can be effectively treated through Shoulder Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure to diagnose and repair problems inside the shoulder joint. A Shoulder Arthroscopy can also help treat conditions such as adhesive capsulitis, as well as traumatic injuries such as repairing Rotator cuff tears.

Many shoulder problems can seem minor at first, the longer you let injuries linger without treatment however negative impacts the healing process time.  If you’re experiencing unusual, minor or extreme pain in the area between your upper arm and shoulder joint, consult with a doctor immediately.

Qaulified Professional Reviewing A Mans Shoulder While He Lays Down

Treating Your Shoulder Pain

Resting and avoiding activities that caused the upper arm pain to begin with is the first step, so athletes will likely need to take a break from their sport(s) of choice. Keep in mind that you can probably still work out if you don’t use the affected shoulder though – so it is likely that not all physical activity is off limits (speak to your doctor with any questions).

Icing your upper arm may also be advised, particularly after activity that might cause additional pain or inflammation. Compression bandages, elevating your arm above your heart level to reduce swelling, and other at home treatments may help you prior to surgery or to even avoid it altogether.

Doctor in Scrubs crossing Arms Over Body

Specific exercises or physical therapy or physiotherapy may be advised to improve muscle and tendon flexibility and strength, with treatments like ultrasound, phonophoresis, iontophoresis, friction massage, electrogalvanic stimulation, and soft tissue mobilisation used to treat scar tissue in the tendons caused by chronic inflammation.

Oral anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, and even local anaesthetics may be used as well, perhaps in conjunction with physical therapies to relieve the pain and soreness. Sometimes this may prevent the need for orthopaedic shoulder surgery; however, a repeated need for medication to alleviate pain may indicate a need for surgery.

When Your Upper Arm Pain Requires Surgery

For example, if your upper arm pain is the result of shoulder impingement, bone spurs, calcium deposits, or similar conditions, you may require surgery. In many cases, this may be arthroscopic surgery which is minimally invasive and only requires a small number of incisions. 

shoulder tip pain

That said, more extensive injuries or problems like a complete rotator cuff tear, damage from conditions like arthritis, and previously failed shoulder treatments or even surgeries will require a more extensive treatment plan or even a complete reconstruction of the affected shoulder joint. Prevention immensely benefits the recovery process! If you have past unrelated but significant medical conditions, this will also affect your treatment plan and subsequent follow-up rehabilitation.

Contact our team today to book an appointment, and better understand the cause behind your upper arm pain.

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