Understanding Shoulder Pain: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

In this article, you’ll learn about the various causes of shoulder pain, from tendon inflammation to fractures, and how they’re diagnosed and treated. Whether you’re experiencing mild discomfort or severe limitations in shoulder mobility, this article will provide valuable insights into managing and alleviating shoulder pain effectively.

Contact us at Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine, your trusted source for shoulder surgery in Granville and Coshocton, Ohio. Our skilled team includes experienced shoulder surgeons and orthopedic specialists dedicated to restoring your shoulder function and relieving pain. Schedule your consultation today to explore your treatment options.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

There are three bones that form the shoulder: the upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle). The head of the upper arm bone fits into a socket in the shoulder blade called the glenoid. Muscles and tendons, collectively known as the rotator cuff, stabilize the arm bone in the shoulder socket.

Shoulder Pain Explained

The shoulder, often referred to as a single joint, is actually a complex system of joints, tendons, and muscles enabling a wide range of arm motion. The shoulder is involved with movements from simple tasks like scratching your back to athletic feats like throwing a baseball.

However, the mobility of the shoulder makes it more susceptible to injuries and conditions that can cause pain. Shoulder pain can arise from various issues such as tendon inflammation, instability, arthritis, fractures, and, less commonly, tumors or nerve-related problems.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

The common causes of the pain you are experiencing in your shoulder could be the result of the following:

  • Tendon Inflammation and Tears: Inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or tears in the tendons can occur due to overuse, acute injuries, or degenerative changes. These affect the rotator cuff tendons (rotator cuff tendinitis) and the biceps tendons, leading to pain and limited movement.
  • Impingement: When the shoulder blade exerts pressure on the underlying soft tissues during arm movement, it can cause impingement. This often results in bursitis and tendinitis, causing pain and restricted mobility.
  • Instability: Instability arises when the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket, either due to sudden injury or chronic issues. Recurring dislocations can lead to pain, unsteadiness, and an increased risk of arthritis.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, the most common type of shoulder arthritis, results from wear and tear over time. Symptoms include pain and stiffness that worsen with age. Other types of arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis, can be linked to rotator cuff tears, infection, or inflammation.
  • Fractures: Fractures of the clavicle, humerus, or scapula can cause severe pain, swelling, and bruising, often as a result of falls or high-energy injuries.
A woman in Granville, OH, trying to understand the reasons for your shoulder pain.

When to Seek Help

While minor shoulder pain may resolve with self-care, persistent or severe pain warrants medical attention. If pain persists after 2 weeks of self-treatment, consulting a doctor or physiotherapist is advised.

If additional symptoms like severe pain in both shoulders, pain in the thighs, and a fever, you should seek immediate help, as it could be a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica.

Understanding the underlying causes of shoulder pain and seeking appropriate treatment can alleviate discomfort and restore shoulder function. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe shoulder pain, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

Diagnosing Shoulder Pain

To diagnose shoulder pain, doctors typically conduct a thorough medical history and physical examination. Tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, electrodiagnostic testing, arthrograms, and arthroscopy may also be ordered to identify the cause of pain.

Treatments We Offer for Shoulder Pain

Treatment options for shoulder pain vary based on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. They could include the following:

  • Physical Therapy: Targeted physical therapy exercises can restore range of motion, prevent a frozen shoulder, and strengthen the shoulder joint.
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy: This is a minimally invasive surgery using a small camera and instruments to address various shoulder injuries.
  • Rotator Cuff Surgery: Surgery repairs torn tendons using sutures to restore stability and function.
  • Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery: Damaged bones and cartilage are replaced with metal and plastic components, particularly effective for osteoarthritis.
  • Reverse Shoulder Replacement: This is an alternative method for treating arthritic shoulders, often performed on older patients with rotator cuff tear arthropathy.

What to Expect After Shoulder Surgery

After undergoing shoulder surgery, the recovery process varies depending on the type and severity of the procedure. Generally, patients can expect a period of rehabilitation involving physical therapy to restore shoulder strength and range of motion. Recovery time may range from several weeks to several months, with full recovery taking up to a year in some cases.

The benefits of shoulder surgery often include reduced pain, improved shoulder function, and a return to daily activities and sports with greater ease and confidence.

If you’re considering shoulder surgery, consult with one of our shoulder orthopedic surgeons at Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine to understand what to expect during and after the procedure.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Are you ready to find relief from shoulder pain and regain full mobility? Schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine today and take the first step towards a healthier, pain-free shoulder.

Don’t let shoulder discomfort hold you back any longer. Book a visit with a qualified shoulder surgeon who can help you get back to doing what you love. Contact us now to begin your journey towards improved shoulder health!

Medically reviewed by Brad L. Bernacki, MD