What is shoulder pain?
Did you know that your shoulder is the most flexible part of your body? However, it’s actually because the shoulder joint is so flexible that it’s prone to various different types of injuries.
Shoulder pain itself is fairly common. In fact, around 3 out of 10 people will be affected at some point in their lives. It’s important to be aware that if your shoulder pain lasts longer than two weeks, you should be examined by a physiotherapist or orthopaedic consultant who can establish the reason for your pain.
What causes shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain can be caused by a number of factors; from wear and tear to chronic overuse and acute injuries.
Here are some of the most common causes:
Collar bone or upper-arm fracture
Fractures are often the result of a fall, accident or sporting injury. The type of fracture is usually dependant on age and cause of the injury. For example, clavicle fractures (broken collarbones) are most common in children, whilst fractures from falls are prevalent in older patients. Fractures from sporting injuries are more often seen in younger patients who regularly play contact sports.
No matter what age you are or the cause of injury, a shoulder fracture will usually cause severe pain, swelling and loss of movement.
Overusing your shoulder can lead to swelling and inflammation of the bursa, which can cause shoulder (subacromial) bursitis. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion and helped to decrease friction between your muscles and bone. So, if your shoulder bursa is inflamed, it can become very painful and make day-to-day activities difficult.
Tendonitis is when the tendons become swollen and inflamed. In the shoulder, this most commonly involves the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles. This can be the result of an acute injury caused by overexertion or repeated overhead movements at work or during sport. Tendonitis can also be from chronic injury, such as joint degradation from arthritis or general wear and tear that occurs over time.
A frozen shoulder can be extremely painful and can be quite debilitating. The tissue surrounding the shoulder becomes inflamed and it becomes very difficult to move the shoulder. In some cases, the shoulder can’t be moved at all. The cause is often unknown; however it can be due to injury or surgery that prevents your arm from being moved.
Rotator cuff injury
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons which surround the shoulder to provide stability, movement and strength to the joint. The function of the rotator cuff is to keep your shoulder joint in its socket. It can become injured in a number of ways, such as a fall, accident or from contact sports. Injuries can also arise from general wear and tear.
A dislocated shoulder is when your upper arm comes out of the shoulder joint. This can happen following severe injury or trauma. Once the ligaments and muscles become loose, dislocations are more likely to repeatedly happen.
Shoulder joint instability
Shoulder instability occurs when the surrounding structures of the shoulder joint fail to keep the ball of the upper arm bone in its socket. Shoulder joint instability can be caused by injury or overuse, or it can be caused by hypermobility. Hypermobility is where the joint is more flexible than is usual, allowing movement beyond what most people find possible.
What should I do if I've got shoulder pain?
There are some things you can do to help ease shoulder pain yourself. For example; pain medication, gentle exercise, adequate rest and improving your posture.
If your symptoms persist for more than two weeks and aren’t getting better, you should visit your GP or book an appointment with a physiotherapist or orthopaedic consultant who can conduct a thorough examination. With the correct diagnosis, you can then source the correct treatment. If you’re at all worried, it’s always best to seek advice from a healthcare professional.