According to some estimates, up to two-thirds of Americans experience shoulder discomfort at some point in their lives. The World Health Organization reports that 9 percent of American adults suffer from chronic shoulder pain. When you consider the complexity of the shoulder, it’s easy to see why.
You have three primary bones in this ball-and-socket joint – the collarbone (clavicle) and shoulder blade (scapula), which form the socket that holds the round head of the upper arm bone (humerus). You have 17 muscles, including four in the rotator cuff, which holds the humerus in place, and the deltoid, the largest and strongest shoulder muscle.
You also have a complex network of tendons and cartilage, such as the labrum, which forms the cup where the head of the humerus fits. You have the bursae, the small sacs of fluid that protect the rotator cuff tendons. Then you have the AC (acromioclavicular) joint, which connects the end of the scapula (acromion) with the clavicle.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of potential for shoulder pain in the most mobile joint in the human body.
Shoulder pain can occur in people of all ages, from young children to seniors. Athletes who use their shoulders and arms for sports, as well as workers who lift their arms repeatedly (painters, construction workers, etc.) are more prone to injury and trauma. Chronic shoulder pain caused by the degeneration of the shoulder joint becomes more common as you age.
Some of the most common shoulder injuries and conditions include:
Inflammation is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. Bursitis and tendonitis are both inflammatory conditions. Repetitive movements and overuse of the shoulder can also cause inflammation, which can affect shoulder movement and mobility. Of course, shoulder pain can be caused by unpredictable trauma. Tears, sprains, strains, dislocations, separations, and fractures in the shoulder area are often the result of falls, auto accidents, collisions, and sports injuries.
Osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint is a common source of shoulder pain, especially among the elderly. The gradual breakdown of joint cartilage and bone can be caused by everything from overuse to obesity to rheumatoid arthritis. Other causes of shoulder pain include thoracic outlet syndrome, avascular necrosis (death of bone tissue caused by limited blood flow), lung cancer, and heart attack.
In the case of a traumatic event, the cause of shoulder pain might be fairly obvious. However, diagnosis typically involves a lot of investigative work. We start by asking a lot of questions about the type and location of the pain, when it started, and what types of movement and activity cause pain. Based on this conversation, we’ll determine if an x-ray, CT scan or MRI is necessary.
We also look beyond the shoulder joint for anything that could be contributing to pain or discomfort before recommending a treatment plan. For example, a condition in the neck or back could cause pain in one or both shoulders, and a poor diet could make inflammation in your shoulder even worse.
Our team of clinicians will develop a personalized treatment plan based on the cause of your shoulder pain and your physical condition. This might include:
We always take a conservative approach to healing, but surgery may be the best option for serious injuries and conditions. Shoulder replacement, like knee or hip replacement, is sometimes the only choice. At Natural Healthcare Center, medication is used sparingly and temporarily, and surgery is only recommended as a last resort.
If you’re dealing with pain in your shoulder from an injury, accident, or chronic condition, schedule a complimentary consultation at Natural Healthcare Center. We’ll discuss your history, review your diagnostic imaging, and share our insights at no charge. Let us help you find out the cause of your shoulder pain and restore your strength and mobility so you can feel better, function better and live longer.