Any painful discomfort experienced around or in the shoulder joint is called shoulder pain. It may feel as though it’s coming from the joint itself or from one of the muscles, tendons or ligaments that surround the joint. In most cases, it becomes more painful with activity that involves the shoulder or arm.
What are the common symptoms of shoulder pain?
Most of us experience shoulder pain at one time or another, and its causes are varied. The nature of your symptoms and their location help your doctor reach a proper diagnosis.
Pain on the outside of your shoulder that travels down the arm often feels like deep aching in the muscles and may indicate a problem with your rotator cuff, including bursitis, a tear in the cuff, or tendinitis. When the front of your shoulder is painful, most often it is has something to do with your bicep tendon. This tendon is anchored deep inside your shoulder and is subject to tendinitis or tearing. If you are experiencing pain on the top of your shoulder, your AC joint may have a problem, including arthritis or separation in the shoulder.
The duration and frequency of your shoulder pain are symptom details that help your doctor reach an accurate diagnosis. It may be constant or intermittent, apparent when you move, or only at night, often while sleeping. The degree to which you can move your shoulder in one direction or another, your range of mobility, also reveals important clues regarding the source of your shoulder pain.
Your doctor will evaluate the strength of your shoulder muscles, capabilities critical to your moving normally. Your doctor will take note if the joint feels unstable, as if it could pop out of place. The ligaments assigned to position your shoulder properly may have been damaged, resulting in a dislocated shoulder. You may even hear a clicking or popping sound that occurs when the shoulder moves, the result of a tear in shoulder cartilage.
What is the cause of shoulder pain?
There are several conditions and diseases that have an impact upon the structures in your abdomen and chest, like gallbladder or heart disease, which may also result in shoulder pain. When shoulder pain does arise from a condition in another structure of than the shoulder itself, it is called referred pain. If you experience referred shoulder pain, you may discover that usually it does not get worse when you move your shoulder.
When the cause of your shoulder pain is not referred pain, its cause may be one of many, including: cancer, bursitis, a broken arm, a brachial plexus injury, vascular necrosis, cervical radiculopathy, a dislocated shoulder, heart attack, an ectopic pregnancy, an infection, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, pericarditis, rheumatoid arthritis, a separated shoulder, a rotator cuff injury, septic arthritis, a spinal cord injury, shingles, a torn cartilage, a tendon rupture, or strains and sprains. There are other possibilities, but this long list gives you a sense of just how complex diagnosis may be.
When should I see a pain management doctor in Orange County, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irivine or Long Beach if I have shoulder pain?
If are aware of persistent warmth and tenderness around the painful joint, or if you see redness or swelling, it’s wise to make an appointment with your doctor. If you suffer a serious injury and the joint appears to be deformed, if you cannot use it, or if you’re experiencing severe pain and sudden swelling, have someone help you get to the emergency room immediately.
Shoulder pain may be a sign of something dangerous. The sensation of tightness in your chest or difficulty breathing can signal a heart attack; this demands immediate attention. If your shoulder pain is coupled with bleeding due to an injury, you can see an exposed tendon or bone, or feel a tight sensation in your chest or are breathless, get emergency medical attention right away.
How is shoulder pain diagnosed?
When you visit your Orange County pain clinic doctor to address your shoulder pain, your medical history, a physical examination, and other tests can help make an accurate diagnosis. Your medical history provides your doctor with details about previous injuries or conditions that could be contributing factors. Your physical examination will identify the specific location of your pain.
The limit of your movements and the extent to which your shoulder joint has become unstable along with various tests can reveal clues that are important for your diagnosis. These tests may include: X-rays to produce pictures of your bones; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a procedure that generates a series of cross-sectional pictures of your shoulder joint; and an arthrogram, X-rays of your shoulder following an injection of contrast dye into the joint so that disease or injury may be made visible.
How is shoulder pain treated?
Your shoulder pain may be something you can handle yourself. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are good at relieving pain and reducing swelling. Letting your shoulder rest by avoiding unnecessary movement can help to remedy the situation.
And applying a cold compress for 15 minutes several times daily should help. However, if you find that your pain persists after you’ve tried these self-help treatments for a few days, it’s time to see your doctor.
Depending upon the cause of your shoulder pain, your doctor will consider many available treatments to construct an appropriate plan to remedy the problem. If over-the-counter medications have been unsuccessful, more powerful prescription medication may be helpful. Physical therapy along with medication is frequently recommended to alleviate pain and encourage rehabilitation of your damaged shoulder.
These treatments may include massage, heat therapy, and ultrasound. The use of alternative therapies is becoming more prevalent, including chiropractic massage therapy and acupuncture. If you decide to try one of these alternative treatments, your doctor will help you identify practitioners who are properly qualified and registered. When all other treatment options have been exhausted and shoulder pain persists, surgery may be considered.