Causes of Shoulder Pain—and Solutions

Shoulder pain is a painful sensation in or near the shoulder joint that can limit your range of motion and ability to comfortably perform tasks and activities—but this is not a permanent condition. Dr. Michael Sander and his experienced team at Sander Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine have treatment solutions.

Shoulder pain can affect individuals of all ages and is most common among middle-aged and older adults and individuals who participate in contact sports, such as football, or sports that involve overhead arm movements, such as tennis. Also, individuals who perform occupations that require repetitive, overhead arm movements, such as painting houses or moving furniture, may develop shoulder pain.

This pain can come on suddenly, which is called acute pain, or gradually, which is called chronic pain. Acute pain is typical of younger individuals who play sports and sustain an injury, whereas chronic pain is typical of older adults, whose joints have been slowly wearing down.

There are several causes of shoulder pain, the most common of which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Shoulder bursitis
    Shoulder bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, which is a fluid-filled pad that cushions the joint.
  • Shoulder tendonitis
    Shoulder tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon, a thick, white cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone.
  • Frozen shoulder
    Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, is stiffness and pain of the shoulder joint, often associated with underuse of the upper arm, such as when an arm is healing from a bone break.
  • Rotator cuff tear
    The rotator cuff is a structure composed of four muscles and tendons that secure the head of the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket. A rotator cuff tear is when the rotator cuff is partially or fully torn.
  • Shoulder instability
    Shoulder instability occurs when the head of the upper arm bone dislodges from the shoulder socket, commonly referred to as a dislocated shoulder. The upper arm bone can be either completely or partially dislodged.
  • Shoulder arthritis
    Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, resulting is pain and stiffness. There are several types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder, the most common of which are osteoarthritis (the wearing and tearing of the cartilage, a protective layer over the bone) and rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic condition that affects many joints).

The good news is you don’t have to live with shoulder pain. Dr. Sander and the specialists at Sander Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine can successfully diagnose and treat any shoulder pain you may be feeling.

Nonsurgical Treatments

A conservative, nonsurgical approach is the first step of treatment for most patients. In fact, about 90 percent of patients can be treated by nonsurgical means. These treatments include rest, physical therapy to build strength, and medications to reduce inflammation and in turn relieve pain.

Surgical Treatments

If the nonsurgical treatments do not relieve your shoulder pain, surgery may be recommended. Dr. Sander uses the latest surgical techniques to treat shoulder pain and will recommend the option best for you. Surgical treatment options include traditional open surgery and arthroscopy, a minimally invasive technique in which a fiber-optic scope is used and only a small incision is needed, allowing faster healing and recovery.

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