The shoulder has the largest range of motion of any joint in the body. Everything from scratching your back to lifting a book requires your shoulder. Because of this, the shoulder is often subject to overuse, traumatic injury, and/or natural body changes, leading to pain and tissue damage.
Suffering from shoulder pain? Contact us to learn about treatment options.
How Your Shoulder Works
The shoulder consists of three bones, the joints between them, and the muscles that generate strength and motion.
Shoulder bones are:
• The shoulder blade (scapula);
• The collarbone (clavicle); and
• The upper arm bone (humerus).
The shoulder blade and the collarbone come together on top of the shoulder to form the acromioclavicular (AC) joint.
The upper arm bone is shaped like a ball to fit neatly into a socket on the shoulder blade. This is called the glenohumeral joint. The socket is shallow to allow a wide range of arm motion. Inside the socket is a flexible rim of soft tissue called the labrum, which helps increase shoulder stability.
Four muscles surround the shoulder joint to help rotate the arm and provide additional stability. These muscles form the rotator cuff.
Many other muscles help move the shoulder, such as the pectoralis muscles (pecs) on the chest and the latissimus dorsi (lats) on the back.
For the shoulder to function properly, bones, joints and muscles must work in unison.
Evaluating Shoulder Pain
Shoulder-pain evaluation starts with you telling us when and how it started, how it feels, and treatments you’ve tried. We’ll also review your health history for other medical conditions that may be causing or contributing to your pain.
We’ll test your shoulder structures and check your shoulder’s range of motion and strength, and do tests to uncover specific problems.
Sometimes we order X-rays or MRIs to visualize bones and soft tissues. X-rays can show fractures, spurs, and changes from arthritis. MRIs can show more bone detail, as well as soft-tissue damage like rotator-cuff or labrum tears.
In some cases other specialists, particularly neurologists, may be asked to evaluate and test the nerve supply to the shoulder.
Whatever the cause of your shoulder pain, we’re dedicated to helping you find the best treatment. Request an appointment today.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
- Bone spurs
- Less common causes – infection, tumors, or nerve problems
Treating Shoulder Pain
Shoulder-pain treatment depends on the diagnosis and severity of your symptoms.
Lifestyle Modifications include resting your shoulder, changing activities to avoid painful situations, and doing exercises to strengthen weak muscles.
Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can relieve pain and/or inflammation. For severe inflammation, a short burst of a steroid medication or a cortisone injection may be an option.
Physical therapy focuses on getting your shoulder muscles and joints to work properly in moving your arm. Even if you’re very strong and active, muscle imbalances may cause shoulder pain. Either in-person or via telehealth, physical therapists can identify and address imbalances through corrective exercises. They may give you take-home exercises to help return you to regular activities pain-free.
Surgery may be an option for certain shoulder conditions if all other treatment options have been exhausted. Although many surgeries can be done arthroscopically, using a small camera to see inside the body, some may still require a traditional open surgery.