If you are feeling pain, stiffness, or a limited range of motion in your shoulder, you know it immediately. Something isn’t right, and it’s affecting your quality of life in very basic ways. What to do about it depends on the cause. Here are some of the most common causes of a painful shoulder.
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, the symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness within the joint. It is especially common after a stroke and after certain surgical procedures such as a mastectomy. Any condition that affects your shoulder’s ability to move properly can result in frozen shoulder.
Remember the capsule mentioned earlier? This capsule surrounds your shoulder bones, tendons, and ligaments. With frozen shoulder, the capsule gets tighter and thicker, inhibiting movement. Over time, it gets worse. And it can last for months. Many people with frozen shoulder experience it the worst at night when they’re trying to sleep.
Shoulder pain treatments for this condition can include exercises, manual therapy with help from your physiotherapist, acupuncture, and moist heat.
Shoulder Inflammation and Impingement
Inflammation can be caused by shoulder tendonitis or bursitis. These are two variations of the same condition, just in different places of soft tissue – the tendons and the bursa. Shoulder impingement syndrome happens when your tendons get pinched between the humerus and the shoulder blade bones.
Often, impingement occurs as a result of inflammation from tendonitis or bursitis, which is why we’re including all three of these as one cause of shoulder pain.
It’s not always the case, but it is often true that these conditions result from some other type of injury to your shoulder.
Shoulder impingement symptoms will include a loss of strength and reduced range of motion. You’ll feel stiffness when you raise and lower your arm. You may feel sudden pain when trying to lift something. And you’ll feel pain when reaching, especially overhead. It will also affect your ability to sleep.
For inflammation and shoulder impingement relief, you can use the same shoulder pain treatments as with frozen shoulder.
Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Tendon Tears
When your rotator cuff tears, you will feel it immediately. Many people feel a snapping sensation when the injury happens, or a ‘crackling’ feeling when they move their shoulder in certain ways.
If the shoulder tendon has torn, that means your tendon is no longer fully attached to the bone. A tendon tear can be a partial tear or a complete tear. Obviously, a complete tear is worse.
With a torn rotator cuff or shoulder tendon, you will feel pain just trying to lie in bed at night, especially if you lie on the injured shoulder. You’ll feel pain anytime you lift or lower your arm.
A tear can be caused by several things, beginning with repetitive high stress motions such as those in certain sports and in particular manual labor jobs like painting, because so much of the work is done overhead.
Other tears are caused by age, as the joint’s various parts degenerate, and reduced blood flow makes it harder for it to heal itself. Bone spurs in the shoulder joint can also cause the tendon to tear if the tendon rubs against the bone spur, especially when lifting. This is another form of shoulder impingement.
You can also tear your rotator cuff or shoulder tendon if you break your collarbone or dislocate your shoulder. It can even happen just by lifting something heavy too fast, or falling on your arm in the wrong way. These would be acute tears, as opposed to degenerative tears that happen over time.
Treatment for shoulder pain caused by tears depends on the nature of the tear.
For a partial tear, your body will eventually heal itself. Using a shoulder brace for rotator cuff injuries will accelerate your healing, but you can also use the other treatment methods listed earlier, and physiotherapy of shoulder pain can play a helpful role in accelerating the proper healing of your joint and muscles.
With a full tear, in most cases this requires surgery first, followed by a recovery process with help from a physiotherapist, which will be aided by shoulder bracing, which we’ll discuss in detail next.
Learn more about shoulder injuries, causes, and treatments
Check out this post from BeActive Physiotherapy about rotator cuff injury (Read the caption):