Shoulder pain or pain in your upper arm can often be a mystery, and it’s not always easy to figure out the possible cause. While this graphic is in no way exhaustive, we have created an easy-to-follow chart that may help you figure out what could be the cause of your shoulder pain.
Complicating matters further, shoulder pain is sometimes caused by other problems, unrelated to the actual shoulder. This is known as ‘referred pain’, which can happen with certain neck problems, arthritis of the spine, herniated discs, etc. Sometimes, shoulder pain can be caused by a life threatening blood clot or a heart attack.
What to do if you are experiencing shoulder pain
If you are experiencing the sudden onset of severe shoulder pain, it’s best to see a Doctor quickly to find out the exact cause. If you have general, mild shoulder pain, try adjusting your activities, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and performing mild stretches to see if the pain improves on its own. However, if the pain doesn’t go away after a few weeks, you should consult your doctor.
Common Shoulder Conditions that we Frequently Treat
Dislocated Shoulder and Shoulder Instability
Your upper arm bone (humerus) sits in a socket (glenoid) in your shoulder blade (scapula). It can be pulled out of place by being wrenched or as a result of an impact – making it particularly common in contact sports and sports that involve falls on an outstretched arm.
Once you’ve had a dislocated shoulder, it may become prone to instability and repeat dislocations. It can also lead to further structural issues, such as tendon or ligament damage and osteoarthritis. Our physical therapy and surgical treatments can improve stability and resolve other conditions in your shoulder joint.
FS also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful and disabling condition. The connective tissue (shoulder capsule) surrounding your shoulder joint becomes inflamed and stiff, resulting in chronic pain and a severely restricted range of motion.
If a tendon in your shoulder joint becomes inflamed and swollen, it can get pinched between the bones of your shoulder, causing pain as you try to move your arm in an arc. Inpingement an be caused by a repetitive activity, or can be the result of other structural problems in the joint – such as bone spurs and osteoarthritis.
Treatment initially involves PT program and anti-inflammatories, followed by ultrasound-guided injections to reduce inflammation and promote healing. These measures are successful in over 80% of patients. Occasionally, arthroscopic surgery may be necessary to resolve the issue.
The acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) is the bony lump at the top of your shoulder where your collarbone (clavicle) attaches to the shoulder blade (scapula). The joint can be displaced by a direct impact onto the outside of your shoulder or a heavy fall onto an outstretched arm.
The strong, fibrous ligaments that secure the bones of your ACJ can get stretched, causing instability or a complete dislocation and anti-inflammatory injections, as well as surgery to repair dislocated ACJs.
Like all the joints in your body, your shoulder is prone to osteoarthritis through overuse or injury. The degenerative bone disease starts with damage to the slippery cartilage coating on the joint surfaces, which leads to increased friction and deterioration of the bones – including bony lumps called bone spurs.
This in turn can cause damage and inflammation to other tissues in your shoulder. Our team offers expert diagnosis and treatment for arthritis in the shoulder – from ultrasound guided injections, physiotherapy to improve shoulder function, arthroscopic surgery for tissue damage, through to complete shoulder joint replacements.
The tendons that connect your biceps muscle to your shoulder joint can get damaged through suddenly lifting a heavy weight or through overuse (it’s common in swimmers, tennis players and golfers). Tendonitis is the inflammation of your tendon due to micro-tears, and it can cause a deep, throbbing ache where it connects to the front of your shoulder joint.
We treat most biceps tendonitis with anti-inflammatory injections and physical therapy rehabilitation programs. The condition might require keyhole surgery, particularly if it is a complete biceps tear or accompanied by other shoulder problems such as a rotator cuff tear.
The labrum is a ring of rubbery cartilage that lines the socket of your shoulder joint. SLAP stands for Superior (topmost) Labral tear from Anterior (front) to Posterior (back) – it usually occurs as a result of repetitive movements, aging or a direct trauma to your upper arm. The labrum can become frayed at the top due to overuse, it can become detached along with your biceps tendon, or part of it can droop into the joint.
The Dayton Orthopedic surgical team treats minor SLAP tears with anti-inflammatory injections and physiotherapy. More severe cases are effectively treated using arthroscopic surgery.
Rotator Cuff Tears
The inner tube of tendons that enables your shoulder joint to move is called the rotator cuff. The tendons can be damaged due to a forceful wrenching of your arm muscles, an impact on your shoulder or due to repetitive movements causing micro-traumas to the tendons.
Our team can resolve rotator cuff tears non-surgically by offering physiotherapy to help your body recover and to strengthen the joint, and injecting steroids or other agents to reduce inflammation and stimulate healing. If the pain is ongoing, or if there are other conditions in your shoulder, we can provide arthroscopic surgery to resolve the issue.