The human body is designed in a way that in the case of failure, the organism immediately reacts to various problems with pain of a different nature. This is a kind of a danger alarm that calls a human to pay attention to his or her health condition. Sharp pain in shoulder is as dangerous as pain in the lumbar region or heart ache. Shoulder pain may be of a different nature but it often happens that when one suffers from severe shoulder pain and it becomes indeed unbearable, that is a signal to visit a doctor because, as a rule, the problem proves to be very serious. However, when there is ache in the shoulder which is not persistent (it is not acute but recurring), people believe that there is no reason to visit a doctor and this pain should disappear on its own. The question is: will it go away? What are the shoulder pain causes and when should one start worrying?
In order to get all the answers, one should better consult the specialist in the area to get the right diagnosis and consider your future steps in fighting the problem. You may use certain pharmacy remedies to treat the symptoms but in case the situation is not getting any better in a week it is advisable to not waste the time any longer and get examined by a professional to prevent the pain you experience from turning into chronic shoulder joint pain.
Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain
Why do people experience pain in shoulders? There are numerous reasons for pain in the shoulder joint. Among them, there are quite serious health problems and those that are in fact easy to eliminate. It is quite problematic to diagnose the true cause of shoulder pain without a proper medical education. However, given that every ailment manifests itself in a different way and causes rather peculiar feelings (nature of pain, its duration and the moments it occurs), one can make a presumptive diagnosis on the basis of self-observation. That will help to assess the severity of the situation.
Pain in the shoulder is a widespread pain syndrome. This is due primarily to the physiology and the anatomical structure of the shoulder joint which is one of the most movable and functionally active major joints of the body which is responsible for a significant physical activity.
Unfortunately, there are various reasons that may contribute to the occurrence of the pain syndrome in the shoulders, whether it is right shoulder or left shoulder pain, or bilateral shoulder ache.
Signs of Minor Problems and Easily Eliminated Pain in Shoulder Joint
This section describes the causes of shoulder pain that can be treated easily with warming ointments and other drugs and does not require serious intervention. Such pain occurs as the result of physical overloads, fatigue, and other non-serious causes. Let us consider each of those listed below in detail.
- Overload of the shoulder joint. This case is typical for people whose work involves activities and heavy lifting. There are cases of shoulder pain in school children, especially in elementary school, because of too heavy school bags and the musculoskeletal system which is still being formed. Doctors call this condition tendinitis. Tendinitis is a sudden dragging and aching pain in the shoulder joint. It is the result of inflammation or irritation of the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint. Such pain is always preceded by increased loads. This pain is impossible to be called a pleasant feeling, therefore, people often resort to warming ointments that relieve shoulder pain. In general, this is the right treatment, however, it is necessary to temporarily stop, and further reduce the manual work with the load on the damaged joint. Otherwise, it can be a cause of chronic diseases of the joint capsule.
- Trauma as a cause of shoulder pain. A sharp movement, a snap or bump, a bad fall often entail an injury, a muscle or tendon strain or even rapture. Such a problem manifests itself as sudden and extreme pain in one’s shoulder while driving. Either way, it is better to consult your doctor to see whether there are no fractures and tendon ruptures. If the pain is caused by an injury or a sprain, the treatment process includes a tight elastic bandage or a wrist brace. In the future, the injured limb needs rest for several days depending on the duration of pain syndrome. In some cases, the injury requires manual therapy, massage and shoulder pain exercises to restore mobility.
- Intercostal neuralgia as the cause of shoulder pain. This reason is quite hard to be called minor. The only reason for this disease to be on this list is the fact that the pain source is easy to eliminate, it is easy to treat. In this case, the pain in the shoulder is shooting (comparable to the feelings when the shoulder is punctured with a long needle). Pain often occurs for no visible reason. It is hard to move the arm, unbearable pain occurs when lifting arm. It becomes difficult to breathe. One may feel pain under shoulder blade area or costal arch. If you notice such symptoms, you should contact a specialist to get the treatment prescribed. Leech therapy and acupuncture used together with pharmaceutical treatment have proved to be quite effective in the treating of the problem.
- Cold muscles as the reason for shoulder pain. Probably, each of us has experienced a situation after getting sweaty, when cold or wind outside make us later suffer from nagging shoulder muscle pain which responses to heat. The problem is easy to treat. What you need are heating ointment and pepper plaster. Keep the chest and back warm while you are treating the painful feelings you got from the cold. And, of course, it is advisable to wear the clothes that fit the weather.
- Neuritis or a pinched nerve. The disease is also not a minor one, however, it can be treated successfully. The nature of the pain in neuritis is sharp and sudden. It is not blocked with heat and restricts the movements. The reasons that can bring neuritis about are numerous. That may be a trauma, an inflammation, or swelling and so on. Medical intervention is necessary in such cases. First of all, it is necessary to determine the source of pain because this type of pain can be a signal of a more serious condition.
Major Problems That Require an Urgent Medical Intervention
Shoulder pain may be a symptom of serious diseases which are difficult to cure with conservative treatment. In this case, the longer one postpones visiting the doctor, the more likely one gets serious complications and may become a physically handicapped person in the future. So, what serious problems can “simple shoulder pain” tell us about?
- Osteochondrosis. This is an extremely serious illness that requires an urgent medical intervention. In osteochondrosis, the pain is strong and it gets worse when the patient tries to move the head around or move the neck down. The pain shoots up the arm and gets unbearable at night, keeping the patients from sleeping. With the course of time, it becomes too hard to move one’s arm up. These symptoms indicate a disorder of calcium metabolism and calcification of ligaments. Osteochondrosis often becomes a reason for shoulder blade pain.
- Arthrosis is the most common cause of pain in the shoulder joint. It is an aging-associated disease and rarely occurs to people younger than 45 years old. The symptoms are difficult to confuse with any other disease. The acute and burning pain in shoulder occurs during any attempt to move one’s arm or shoulder. Touching the affected areas causes unbearable discomfort. The chances for successful treatment or remission depend greatly on how soon one contacts the specialist to get proper medications.
- Arthritis is a serious condition that requires medical intervention as soon as possible. It is a medical condition associated with the inflammation of the joints of different etiology. The occurrence of arthritis may be brought about by an old injury, infection or even allergies. Shoulder pain becomes intense and constant, and it cannot be removed with weak painkillers. Often arthritis is accompanied by severe swelling in the affected joint and fever. When you happen to experience the symptoms mentioned above, you should be examined by the specialists as soon as possible. The experiments with self-medication may aggravate the situation and lead to severe consequences. If you visit the doctor immediately, you have great chances to get healthy soon, although it will take a long and complex treatment process including medicine and physiotherapy, spa rehabilitation, massage, manual therapy and exercises for shoulder pain relief.
- Scapulohumeral Periarthritis or Frozen Shoulder. In this disease, the nature of shoulder pain is associated with inflammation and degenerative-dystrophic changes that occur in the tissues surrounding the joint (capsules and ligaments) and are accompanied by the limited excursion of arms with typical joint stiffness (“frozen shoulder”). As a rule, in this disease, the pain in the shoulder is one-sided and can either affect the right or the left shoulder. The main cause of shoulder pain in the frozen shoulder are monotonous, unsustainable overloads related to professional activities, in conjunction with metabolic disorders caused by the impairment of blood circulation and muscle spasms.
- Glenohumeral periarthrosis. As with periarthritis, pain in periarthrosis is often one-sided. The main fact that differs this disease is that the main cause of shoulder pain is not inflammation. In periarthrosis, the shoulder pain is caused by degenerative-dystrophic changes in the periarticular tissues. These changes usually are accompanied by inflammation and may as well result in pain between shoulder blades.
- Cervical osteochondrosis. Another common cause of shoulder pain is cervical osteochondrosis. Usually, patients with cervical osteochondrosis inform the doctor that they experience neck and shoulder pain at the same time. Another characteristic symptom is numbness in the fingers. Cervical osteochondrosis is associated with degenerative-dystrophic changes of intervertebral discs resulting in the reduced spaces between one spinal bone and the next one. That causes pinched nerves (the ones that extend from the spinal cord). This leads to the occurrence of pain along the nerves including pain in the left shoulder or the right shoulder. Extremely intense, deep pain in the shoulder occurs when there are certain complications of osteochondrosis, namely protrusions and discal hernia. At the same time, the pain in the shoulder is as well one-sided. It is either left or right shoulder that aches but the pain often radiates into the heart area.
Based on the nature of the functions violation and the nature of the movements which cause pain in the shoulder, we can also identify the damaged tendons and causes of the damage:
- if pain occurs when pulling the hand sidewards and while moving the hand forward, it suggests supraspinal tendon changes;
- if pain occurs when one tries to rotate the upper arm outwards while the elbow joint is pressed against the body, that may mean infraspinatus tendon changes;
- if pain occurs when one tries to rotate the upper arm inwards while the elbow joint is pressed against the body, that indicates the problems with the subscapular tendon;
- if pain occurs in the front part of the shoulder when one tries to rotate the forearm inwards, that is often indicative of a disease of this bicep.
The instability of the shoulder joint is the most important and common cause of pain in the shoulders of bodybuilders, who are also often exposed to pain in the elbows, knees, and lower back. Traumas and pain in shoulders of bodybuilders prevent them later from performing a number of exercises.
Also, shoulder pain can be caused by:
- narrowing syndrome;
- rupture of the rotator cuff or tendon;
- calcification of the forearm, also known as calcification of tendons and recorded as Tendinosis Calcarea;
- shoulder inflammatory diseases;
- inner issues like neurogenic disorders which may manifest themselves as muscle wasting, paresis, and sensory disorders. These can be complex regional pain syndrome, cervicobrachial plexopathy, cervical radiculopathy, neuralgic amyotrophy, neuropathy or myelopathy;
- it can be reflected pain in myofascial syndrome with any of muscles of the tendon dislocated into the joint capsule.
Treatment of Shoulder Pain
As you have noticed, there is a great number of reasons that may make you suffer from pain in the shoulder. Whether you experience anterior or posterior shoulder pain or shoulder tip pain, as well as pain below the shoulder blades, it is better to get examined by experts before your pain gets chronic. One should be extremely careful because sometimes pain in the shoulder may even be a signal of lung cancer.
Shoulder pain treatment depends on the cause of the pain you suffer from. Naturally, only a qualified and experienced doctor may help you deal with the problem and get proper treatment for your shoulder ache. Only an experienced professional in a reputable clinic will find the remedy to cure the disease or will make the remission possible. Your health is the dearest treasure and you can only trust the best doctors. These professionals will help you to deal with the problem of shoulder pain and leave it all behind:
- orthopedic surgeons with expertise in sports medicine;
- sports doctor qualified in joint problems.