Ouch! My Shoulder is Killing Me!

Shoulder injuries can be one of the most painful conditions my patients (and myself) have experienced. There are several reasons that a person might experience pain in their shoulder. In many cases, the pain will occur as a result of muscle overuse or injury. Pain can also result from damage to the nerves in that area. It’s a funny complaint, and sometimes, shoulder and arm pain have nothing to do with exercise or injury, in fact, unexplained shoulder and arm pain can sometimes be a symptom of a heart attack!

Let’s take a look at some common injuries

1. Shoulder Strain and Shoulder tendinitis

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and support the shoulder joint. Together, they help to hold the upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket.

Rotator cuff tendonitis (RCT) refers to irritation or inflammation of the rotator cuff. This condition is particularly common among elite athletes and people who regularly play certain sports.

Some causes of RCT include:

  • poor overhead throwing technique in sports such as baseball and javelin
  • direct trauma to the rotator cuff
  • falling on a straight arm 

2. Shoulder Sprain

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments that attach the bones in the shoulder or pectoral girdle. A ligament is a tough stabilizing structure that is difficult to treat because they lack a direct blood supply. Also, it is uncommon to injure one ligament. There are usually other ligaments and even muscle that are affected.

  • AC joint. The acromioclavicular joint is located on the front of the shoulder close to the attachment site. Pain from the AC joint can be painful and difficult to treat due to inherent instability of the joint.
  • SC joint. The sternoclavicular joint is located near the breastbone (sternum). Trace the collarbone (clavicle) until it connects to the sternum. Point-specific pain here is indicative of an SC joint injury
  • GH or labral injuries. The glenohumeral joint is the point of attachment Where the arm bone, or the humerus attaches to the shoulder blade or scapula. An injury to this area usually occurs with some type of ballistic throwing motion or attempting the lift significantly heavier load than you’re accustomed to.

Most Sprains are graded from a numerical value of 1 to 3, it depends on the severity may require a surgical console to re stabilize the area. If the injury is not as significant then conservative treatments and methodologies are usually very effective.

3. Repetitive Stress Syndrome or Overuse Syndrome

Overuse can cause damage and inflammation to the muscles in the arm and shoulder. This can result in muscle pain and fatigue, but a person may not experience these symptoms until hours after overexerting the muscles.

A recent review suggests that massage therapy may be the most effective treatment for fatigued muscles.

Other techniques that may relieve muscle inflammation and fatigue include compression garments and cold-water immersion. 

 4. Disuse Syndrome

Disuse syndrome is a general term for conditions that result from a period of immobility or physical inactivity. It typically involves muscle atrophy or wasting.

People who have recently undergone a period of bed rest are at particular risk of developing disuse syndrome.

A person may experience the following symptoms even after a short period of physical inactivity:

  • muscle stiffness
  • muscle shrinkage and wasting
  • muscles that are weak and susceptible to injury

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity. that’s about 2-3 hours per week of moderately intense activity. However, some people have chronic conditions that limit their mobility or physical activity levels. If you’re suffering from a condition that prevents you from exercising regularly, then I would be more than happy to suggest other health professionals such as a personal trainer, or physical therapist that can give you assistance in getting you into better physical condition. 

 5. Cervicobrachial Syndrome (Brachial neuritis)

Brachial neuritis is a type of peripheral neuropathy that affects the following parts of the body:

chest, shoulder, arm, and hand

A Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves which transmit signals between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and other parts of the body (peripheral nervous system). Nerve pain and/or numbness and a loss of function in affected body parts characterize the condition. People with brachial neuritis experience pain and weakness in the shoulder and arm on one side of their body.

You may experience the following symptoms in your shoulder and arm:

  • weakness
  • changes in reflexes
  • loss of sensation

Heart problems

Many people associate a heart attack with pain in the left arm. However, some people may feel pain in the right shoulder and arm, or on both sides of the body.

Anyone who experiences unexplained arm and shoulder pain alongside any of the following symptoms should call 911 immediately. You have a very limited time to initiate treatment for a heart attack before sever damage can occur.

  • chest pain or discomfort, which may feel like pressure, burning, tightness or sharpness
  • pain radiating to the jaw on one or both sides
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • excessive sweating

Wow, so there are lots of things that can cause shoulder pain. How are they treated? First, a diagnosis or determination of the underlying cause needs to be determined. Second, what type of treatment are you looking for? As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I can offer you a conservative treatment regimen using hands-on massage, therapies and adjustments when appropriate. After your pain syndrome begins to improve, a useful routine of therapeutic exercises will be prescribed to ensure your ability to prevent future episodes is optimized.

If you’re in pain, give me a call at (760) 941-3132 and let’s get started on you path to wellness!