Shoulder pain is common and affects around 30 percent of people at some point in their lives. The shoulder is a commonly used joint and as it is so mobile and flexible, it is less stable than other joints and therefore more susceptible to injury and damage. Shoulder pain is not a condition in itself, but it is usually a symptom of a condition or injury affecting the shoulder joint.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is caused by conditions or injuries that involve the shoulder joint. There are many types of shoulder disorder, but the most common examples include a frozen shoulder, rotator cuff disorders, instability and acromioclavicular joint disorders.
A frozen shoulder, as the name suggests, is a condition which makes it difficult and very painful to move the shoulder. In severe cases, there may be absolutely no movement in the joint.
Rotator cuff disorders affect the rotator cuff, the ring of muscles and tendons that support and surround the joint. Examples include muscle or tendon tears or strains, tendonitis and bursitis.
Instability occurs when the shoulder is less stable than normal, meaning that the joint is more mobile which can increases the risk of dislocation.
Acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) disorders affect the AC joint, which is located at the top of the shoulder.
Risk Factors for Shoulder Pain
Risk factors for shoulder pain and injuries include previous injury, underlying health conditions (such as arthritis) and participating in certain sports. Sporting activities which involve physical contact, repetitive actions and a risk of falling all carry the risk of shoulder pain. Injuries are often sustained in sports including rugby, skiing, swimming and throwing events, such as javelin.
Overcoming Shoulder Pain
Treatment for shoulder pain depends on the cause and severity of the problem. In some cases, self-help and rest may be sufficient, while intensive treatment can be required for more severe cases.
Resting the shoulder is important in the event of a shoulder injury or disorder. If, for example, you have a frozen shoulder it is advisable to avoid using the affected shoulder to carry out activities, which may otherwise cause additional pain (such as reaching above your head). Rest is also extremely important when the muscles, tendons or ligaments are damaged or worn due to overuse. This may be the case in sports that require repetitive actions, such as swimming.
Painkillers can be an effective treatment for shoulder pain and your doctor will advise you on which analgesics to take. Over-the-counter medications may be sufficient for mild pain but if pain is severe prescription painkillers will probably be recommended.
Corticosteroids are powerful medicines that ease pain and swelling and can be taken in tablet form or via injection. Corticosteroids may be prescribed for a frozen shoulder or tendonitis.
Surgery is an option for recurring or severe pain, but the type of procedure depends on the injury. A frozen shoulder may be manipulated, while a torn rotator cuff can be treated surgically by removing a tiny piece of bone to allow the joint to move freely. Surgery may also be carried out to treat instability (for example, when an individual experiences dislocation on a regular basis) by tightening the connective tissue around the joint.
Physiotherapy is a very effective treatment for shoulder pain and involves exercises which are introduced gradually, being designed to build up strength in the joint and increase flexibility and mobility.
Preventing Shoulder Pain
In some cases, it is impossible to prevent shoulder pain. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of suffering from pain in the shoulder joint. If you are participating in sport or exercise always ensure that you warm up fully to prevent injuries, and make sure that you are wearing the relevant protective clothing and equipment. Good warm-up exercises for the shoulder joint include stretching the arms across the chest, moving the arms in a circular motion forwards and backwards and lifting the shoulders upwards and downwards.
If you experience symptoms of shoulder disorders, such as pain, swelling or restricted movement, see your doctor. It is always best to get your symptoms checked out, rather than carrying on as normal, as this may make symptoms worse.
Swimmer’s shoulder, an overuse injury, which is common in swimmers due to the repeated action of moving the arm in front of the body, can often be prevented by using the correct technique.
About the Author: This guest post was written by Richard who hopes to inform and educate about shoulder pain and related conditions that affect one’s exercise regime. Connect with him on Twitter @thefreshhealth and on Google+ as +Writer Rich.