Shoulder Pain: What are the Possible Causes?
The shoulder has a vast and versatile range of motion. That being said, when you have problems with your shoulder like frozen shoulder, your ability to move freely can be hampered. Not only that, you are also likely to experience a great deal of discomfort and pain.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint and it has 3 main components: the long arm bone (humerus), collar bone (clavicle), and the shoulder blade (scapula). The bones are cushioned by a layer of cartilage. The rotator cuff provides the shoulder its range of motion.
Four tendons make up the rotator cuff. If the tendons or bones around the rotator cuff are swollen or damaged, it can become difficult and painful to lift the arm over the head. The shoulder can get injured when playing sports, doing repetitive movements, or performing manual labor.
Certain conditions may also cause severe pain that will cause you to seek shoulder pain treatment. Diseases of the heart, liver, and cervical spine may also cause shoulder pain. However, in similar scenarios, the underlying condition needs to be treated, otherwise the shoulder pain will just continue.
What are some of the common causes of shoulder pain?
Several conditions and factors can cause shoulder pain. The most common cause of shoulder pain is rotator cuff tendinitis. This condition is characterised by the swelling of the tendons.
Yet another cause of shoulder pain is impingement syndrome. This occurs when the rotator cuff gets caught between the humeral head and the acromium.
In some cases, shoulder pain can sometimes occur as a result of an injury sustained in another part of the body, usually the biceps or neck. This is what is commonly known as referred pain. Generally, referred pain does not get worse when the shoulder is moved.
Shoulder pain can also be attributed to other causes including:
- Torn cartilage
- Pinched nerve (in the shoulder or neck)
- Torn rotator cuff
- Swollen tendons or bursa sacs
- Dislocated shoulder
- Spinal cord injury
- Heart attack
- Injury secondary to repetitive use or overuse
- Bone spurs
- Broken arm bone or shoulder
How is the cause of shoulder pain diagnosed?
In order to provide the best treatment option for your case, your doctor will need to find the cause of your shoulder pain. In line with this, they’ll look into your medical history. They will also perform a physical exam.
During the physical examination, they will look for swelling and tenderness. They will also carefully assess your joint stability and range of motion. To help with the diagnosis, imaging tests like MRI and X-ray may also be requested.
To help them accurately determine the cause, doctors may also ask the following questions:
- Is the pain felt in just one shoulder or in both?
- Does the pain travel to other parts of the body?
- Was the onset of the pain sudden? If so, what were you doing prior?
- Does it hurt when you don’t move?
- Does it hurt when you move a specific way?
- Is the pain dull or sharp?
- Is the painful area swollen, hot, or red?
- Does the pain keep you up at night?
- What makes the pain worse?
- What makes the pain better?
When is seeking medical help recommended?
If the shoulder pain is accompanied by fever, lasting bruising, tenderness or heat around the joint, and inability to move the shoulder, getting medical help is advised.
If the shoulder pain is sudden and not secondary to any injury, seeking immediate medical help is recommended as the pain can be a sign of a heart attack.
A visit to the emergency room is also required if you injured your shoulder and it is swelling or bleeding and you can see exposed tissue.