4 Conditions that May Be Causing Your Shoulder Pain

Does your shoulder snap, crackle, and pop? Is it stiff and achy? Does it seem to slide out of its socket? These are signs that you have a shoulder injury or medical condition that needs professional care.

Our team at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of shoulder pain. We have multiple locations in Maryland, so you can get the expert care you need to get your shoulder back in business. 

But not all shoulder pain is the same. Before we develop a treatment plan for you, it’s important to learn the common causes of shoulder pain and some of the conditions that can result.

Four categories of injury and illness that can lead to shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can hit you suddenly or come on gradually. It can be a mild annoyance or a debilitating problem. And symptoms can vary widely depending on the cause and the components involved. Here are the most common causes of shoulder pain.

1. Acute trauma

If your shoulder takes a blow, it may sustain internal damage to the bones, soft tissue, or both. This can happen in a fall, car accident, sports collision, or any similar traumatic incident.

2. Repetitive use

Any joint that performs the same motion over and over is at risk for a repetitive stress injury. We frequently see this type of injury in people whose jobs require overhead work, such as stocking shelves or painting. It also occurs among athletes who perform repetitive movements with their shoulders, such as pitchers, quarterbacks, swimmers, and golfers.

3. Strains and sprains

Some activities — even if they’re not repeated often — may strain your shoulder muscles or sprain the ligaments. For example, reaching for something on a high shelf, lifting a heavy box, or simply twisting in an awkward position may injure your shoulder.

4. Disease 

There are several types of arthritis that can affect your shoulder. The most common are osteoarthritis, which wears away the protective cartilage between your bones, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks your tissues. It’s also possible to develop posttraumatic arthritis after a dislocation or fracture.

Four specific conditions that can cause shoulder pain

After determining the likely cause of your shoulder pain and evaluating your symptoms, we examine your shoulder and conduct tests to determine which parts of your shoulder have been damaged. We test your strength, range of motion, and pain level, and we conduct imaging tests using ultrasound, MRI, or X-ray technology.

These steps help us reach an accurate diagnosis of your condition. Here are the five most common shoulder conditions we identify.

1. Arthritis

You have two joints in your shoulder: the acromion, where your collarbone meets your shoulder blade, and the acromioclavicular, where your upper arm bone fits into your shoulder blade. Arthritis can attack either of these joints. 

There’s no cure for arthritis, so the goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and pain, and slow the progression of the disease. Physical therapy can improve your range of motion, and regular exercise can help keep your shoulder mobile. During flare-ups, rest and ice can reduce inflammation. We may also recommend injection therapy to ease severe pain.

2. Rotator cuff tears

Your shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket mechanism. The ball is at the top of your arm bone, or humerus, and a group of muscles and tendons — called the rotator cuff — help hold the ball in place.

If the connective tendons tear, either gradually or in an acute injury, you may experience pain, an inability to lift things, weakness, and audible sounds, such as cracking and popping. 

We treat rotator cuff tears with rest at first and physical therapy as the injury heals. Steroid injections may help reduce the inflammation.

3. Tendonitis and bursitis

Repetitive use is the primary cause of tendonitis and bursitis, which are inflammatory conditions. Any of the tendons in your shoulder can become inflamed, including those that make up the rotator cuff, as well as the biceps tendon. 

The subacromial bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that protects the space between bone tissue and your rotator cuff, can also become inflamed, which is a condition called bursitis.

Rest, wrapping, ice, and physical therapy can do wonders to reduce inflammation and pain.

4. Instability

If a traumatic injury forces your humerus out of the socket, it’s called a dislocated shoulder. If your shoulder anatomy becomes loose and weak and allows your humerus to slip out of the socket repeatedly, it’s called chronic shoulder instability. 

As with all shoulder injuries, it’s best to modify your activity and rest your shoulder. After that, physical therapy and focused rehabilitation can restore your shoulder’s function.

If you have shoulder pain and have trouble performing daily tasks, it’s time to find out why. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.

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