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Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is comprised of several joints that work in conjunction with tendons, ligaments, muscles and three major bones to give the arm its structure and wide range of motion. When pain occurs in the shoulder, it can originate from any of those structures or tissues.

Shoulder pain typically worsens with movement of the arm or shoulder, depending upon the cause. Certain conditions that affect structures in the chest or abdomen, such as heart or gallbladder disease, may also cause shoulder pain (this is known as referred pain).

Causes

Shoulder pain may be caused by a number of conditions, including:

  • A broken arm that may radiate pain to the shoulder
  • A dislocated shoulder, which is an injury where your upper arm bone pops out of its socket
  • A frozen shoulder, where the capsule that encases the connective tissue thickens and restricts shoulder movement
  • A heart attack
  • A rotator cuff injury, which is damage to the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint
  • A separated shoulder, which is an injury to the ligaments that connect the collarbone (clavicle) to the shoulder blade
  • Avascular necrosis, the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply
  • Brachial plexus injury (This is when the network of nerves that service the hand and upper extremity become damaged)
  • Bursitis, a condition in which the bursae (fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, tendons and muscles) become inflamed
  • Cervical radiculopathy, a pinched or inflamed nerve in the neck that radiates pain, weakness or numbness down the shoulder and arm
  • Impingement, pain that results from tendons rubbing on the shoulder blade
  • Osteoarthritis, an arthritic condition where the cartilage wears away in the shoulder joints
  • Polymyalgia rheumatic, an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints
  • Septic arthritis, a condition in which germs migrate to a joint, resulting in infection
  • Sprains and strains
  • Tendinitis, an irritation or inflammation of the tendon
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome, a group of disorders characterized by pain in the shoulders and neck due to compression of the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet)
  • Torn cartilage

Diagnosis

After taking a thorough medical history, one of our specialists will conduct a physical examination. During the assessment, the physician will feel for injury, check your range of motion and evaluate your joint stability. In addition, imaging tests, such as X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be recommended to aid in confirming a diagnosis.

Treatment for Shoulder Pain

Treatment of shoulder pain will depend on the cause of the pain as well as its severity. Our experienced pain management team provides quality treatment options, including:

  • Corticosteroid injections into the shoulder to reduce inflammation in tissue. Injections are performed under high-resolution digital sonogram for accuracy
  • Physical therapy to reduce pain and increase range of motion
  • Platelet-rich plasma therapy, an injection of plasma with highly concentrated amounts of platelets into the shoulder to potentially speed the healing process
  • Recommendations of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (e.g. Advil®)
  • Sling or shoulder immobilizers

If all conservative methods of treatment have been exhausted and pain persists, surgery may be an option for effectively treating certain conditions.

For more information on shoulder pain or to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management specialists, contact us today.

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