FAQs on Shoulder Pain in Houston

Shoulder pain is the fourth most reported painful condition in the United States with 9 percent of adults suffering from it, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The shoulder is an unstable joint and more prone to injury due to its musculoskeletal structure. Being the most mobile joint, it is also susceptible to overuse, wearing of ligaments, soft tissue swelling, bone changes, degenerative conditions, dislocation, and other disorders that lead to agonizing shoulder pain.

What is shoulder pain?

Shoulder pain refers to any type of painful sensation experienced in and around shoulders. It may be localized pain or radiating pain that gradually spreads into arms. The pain begins in the shoulder joint, tendons, or surrounding muscles and aggravates with shoulder or arm movement.

There are certain types of pain that originate in the neck, brain stem, or chest and impact the shoulders in due course. However, any such pain not originating in shoulders are called referred pain, not shoulder pain.

What are the causes of shoulder pain?

  • Injury and inflammation of ligaments, muscles, and tendons caused due to overuse, strain, trauma, or degenerative disorders.
  • Dislocation of shoulder joint or upper joint getting out of the socket following overwhelming pressure or accident
  • Avascular necrosis or death of bone tissues and collapse of bone structures attributed to disrupted blood supply
  • Brachial plexus injury following compression of nerves responsible for sympathetic signal transmission between brain and shoulder, arm, and hand
  • Broken arm or fracture in shoulder bones
  • Shoulder bursitis or swelling in the soft tissues in the shoulder
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Rotator Cuff pain associated with damage to soft tissues in the muscles and tendons that facilitate a range of motions by the shoulder
  • Inflammation of biceps tendon
  • Cartilage injury or tearing attributed to athletic activities
  • Cervical radiculopathy caused by compression of spinal nerves
  • Frozen shoulder disorder traced to musculoskeletal stiffness impacting tendons, ligaments, and muscles
  • Polymyalgia rheumatic leading to muscle stiffness
  • Shoulder impingement, tendon rupture, sprains, and strains
  • Osteoarthritis that affect shoulder joints
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Intensely painful joint infection or septic arthritis
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome causing compression of the blood vessels in and around the collarbone

Who are at the risk of suffering from shoulder pain?

  • Athletes frequently doing repetitive movements or involved in sports requiring high-impact arm movements
  • Those suffering from social depression or work-related stress factor
  • People engaged in shoulder-intensive occupations, including IT employees, drivers, cashiers, tool operators, construction workers, and hairdressers.
  • Those who have previous shoulder injuries due to accidents

When to see a doctor?

If you have shoulder pain lasting for over a week despite self-care or have pain while moving your arm or shoulder, visit your doctor. Swelling or redness in the shoulder accompanied by fever should also be treated with expert advice.

It is also pertinent to visit a doctor when shoulder pain impacts the mobility of your arm or leads to joint deformity, tenderness, loss of ability to rotate, sensory deficit, and severe ache.

Note: If you experience breathing problem with shoulder pain it may be a sign of heart attack.

How is shoulder pain diagnosed?

The diagnosis of shoulder pain depends on its cause. X-ray, MRI, arthrogram using dye injections, CT scan, muscle EMG, and arthroscopy of joints are used to examine the condition in bones, soft tissues, joints, muscle, and ligaments. It helps detect bone spurs, muscle tears, fractures, dislocations, and separations inside the shoulder and treatments prescribed accordingly. If shoulder pain is traced to inflammation, nerve compression, bursitis, or arthritis, the treatment procedure is recommended based on their root cause.

What are the treatment methods available for shoulder pain?

  • Oral Medication:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, corticosteroids, and antirheumatic drugs are prescribed to reduce pain, inhibit inflammation, or disrupt pain signals. However, these oral medications have adverse effects on patients’ health and limited impact. People with certain medical conditions are also barred from these ingesting these drugs.

  • Surgical Intervention

Fractures, shoulder dislocation, and bone spurs are usually treated with invasive surgeries and followed by pain management for months. But all types of shoulder pain and post-operative pain cannot be cured by surgical intervention.

  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Rest, applying ice, self-care, physiotherapy, cautious approach at work, and chiropractic treatment are also used to treat shoulder pain. These therapies are effective only at the early stage and too much caution may impact your daily life and work.

  • Non-Operative Pain Management

There are many non-operative shoulder pain management methods and their use is gaining popularity. Numbing and steroid injections are administered to inhibit pain and inflammation. These injections contain about a sixth of pain medication we take orally and also assures pain relief from months to years. When soft tissues in and around shoulders are found to be damaged, PRP therapy can be used as regenerative and permanent solutions for shoulder pain relief.

Stem cell injections also helps overcome shoulder pain associated with bursitis, degenerative arthritis, cartilage tear, and rotator cuff tendinitis. These injections insert stem cells that encourage regeneration of new tissues to replace the damaged cells. According to a report released at the 2014 Orthobiologic Institute conference in Las Vegas, stem cell injections effect “70% improvement in people with rotator cuff injuries within 15 months.”

References

Greiwe RM, Ahmad CS. Management of the throwing shoulder: cuff, labrum and internal impingement. Orthop Clin North Am. 2010;41:309-323.

Woodward TW, Best TM; The painful shoulder: part I. Clinical evaluation. Am Fam Physician. 2000 May 15;61(10):3079-88.

Mitchell C, Adebajo A, Hay E, et al; Shoulder pain: diagnosis and management in primary care. BMJ. 2005 Nov 12;331(7525):1124-8.

van der Windt DA, Thomas E, Pope DP, et al; Occupational risk factors for shoulder pain: a systematic review. Occup Environ Med. 2000 Jul;57(7):433-42.

Shoulder pain, Prodigy (November 2008)

Burbank KM, Stevenson JH, Czarnecki GR, et al; Chronic shoulder pain: part I. Evaluation and diagnosis. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Feb 15;77(4):453-60.