Part of the reason shoulder pain develops is the fact that this is a very mobile joint. Actually, what most people refer to as the shoulder is several joints functioning as a single unit. These joints are made up of—and supported by—various bones, muscles, and tendons, and this provides the mobility we usually take for granted.
There are essentially three shoulder bones – the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm bone (humerus).
The shoulder blade has a rounded socket (the glenoid), and this is where the upper arm bone connects. It is kept centered in the shoulder socket by a combination of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. These tissues cover the head of the humerus and attach it to the shoulder blade.
If you are a sports fan, you’re likely familiar with the rotator cuff on account of how frequently it is injured during athletic events – and especially for baseball pitchers, football quarterbacks, and other athletes who use an overhand throwing motion.
A shoulder’s mobility is necessary for allowing us to use our hands and arms for so many different tasks, but it comes at a cost. With the joint being as mobile as it is, there is an increased risk of instability or soft tissue impingement. Issues like these can contribute to both chronic and acute (sudden) pain.
As we had mentioned earlier, the majority of shoulder problems stem from a handful of general root causes. Let’s take a look at these more closely so you can better understand what is happening and when it is time to contact us for an appointment.
Arthritis is a medical issue that affects numerous people in a variety of different ways, including being the source of shoulder pain.
There are actually quite a few different forms of arthritis, but they are all common in the fact they cause pain and swelling in joints. In the case of arthritis that causes shoulder pain, the most likely culprit is osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the kind of arthritis people will typically think about when they hear the word “arthritis.” This is the “wear and tear” variety that can develop as the human body ages. The protective joint linings break down over time and this eventually leads to bone-on-bone friction in an affected joint.
This arthritic condition can have a slow, lengthy onset – along with pain that increases in severity over time.
Since arthritic joints tend to hurt more with movement, many people respond by moving less. This can actually lead to a bigger problem, however. Reduced movement contributes to greater stiffness and tightness in an affected joint. In turn, this makes movement even more painful.
So, even though it may seem counterintuitive, one measure that can help with arthritis is a physical therapy program based on appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises.
Other forms of treatment will depend on the nature of the condition and are prescribed on a patient-by-patient basis, but may incorporate anti-inflammatory medication and a certain degree of rest. When conservative care isn’t sufficient, we may recommend joint replacement surgery.