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Male shoulder pain

The pain suddenly appears when you reach behind you in the car, trim the hedge for a bit too long, reach that little bit further out to return a volley, or you just threw a ball when playing with the dog. So what happened, what did you do wrong? Probably nothing, unfortunately all of these can be common causes of shoulder pain.

Shoulder Pain

And after that movement, everyday activities such as dressing, reaching for your rear pocket, combing your hair or drying your back becomes a real challenge. The over-head serve may also become a thing of the past that you can only dream of; that is if of course if you can still dream - because even your nights sleep could become disrupted , so it’s important to understand the causes, and what you can do to address shoulder pain.

So what are the causes of shoulder pain?

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is “The Aging Athlete” (sorry, but age often plays a part!). The condition is known as “Subacromial Impingement Syndrome”. This condition occurs when the Rotator Cuff muscles become irritated underneath a prominence [a bump], from the shoulder blade.

What happened? Where did I go wrong? I am not that old …am I?

The prominence, called the Acromion, can be felt at the point of the shoulder. As the Rotator Cuff muscles rub against the under surface of the Acromion they become swollen and inflamed. The pain is felt in the fleshy part of the shoulder, often going much further down into the arm and occasionally as far as the thumb.

Any movement associated with rotating the arm inwards (such as reaching behind your body), outwards and upwards and in particular quick movements, may be associated with a very sharp stabbing pain.As the inflammation progresses, shoulder pain can become more permanent, and the inflammation may result in a build-up of scar tissue which eventually may irritate the bone.

There is also a possibility that permanent muscle damage may occur in the form of rupture of the muscles. But in most people it is a reversible process, mainly seen above the age of 40, although young athletes doing repetitive overhead activities may develop similar symptoms. Although the causes of shoulder pain are many and varied, your treatment options are quite straightforward.

How you can help yourself?

You need to stop doing whatever activities are the causes of shoulder pain – pain is nature’s way of saying stop.

  • Rest the arm, place a cold compress over the shoulder rounding, and take anti-inflammatory tablets (if you tolerate these). You may have promised to finish painting the ceiling, clear the gutters or play a match – DON’T DO IT!
  • Avoid overhead activities which are often the causes of shoulder pain.
  • If you have to reach up, stand on a stool or step.
  • Use your arm at a comfortable below shoulder level.
  • Do not allow your arm to stiffen up, so regular gentle movement will help.

Chances are that your symptoms will subside allowing you to return to activities (gently!). But if they do not you may benefit from further treatment.

Will my shoulder pain require surgery?

If a course of anti-inflammatory tablets and rest have not cured the symptoms, the next port of call may be a course of physiotherapy to maintain shoulder movements whilst strengthening the painful Rotator Cuff muscles. If physiotherapy isn't successful, a healthcare professional may recommend a steroid injection close to the inflamed muscles to give relief. But if the symptoms persist, surgery may be an option. At surgery, the under-surface of the Acromion (the bone irritating the Rotator Cuff muscles) is trimmed and any excess scar tissue removed. This is normally done as a keyhole procedure using a general anaesthetic.

You would be expected to be in hospital for up to 24 hours, and could be back to work within a couple of weeks of surgery, followed by another course of physiotherapy. The majority of patients will experience relief of symptoms within 3-6 months, but if a muscle rupture has occurred, recovery may take much longer.

The majority of patients who have been treated for shoulder injury will be able to return to activities they were previously doing.

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