The shoulder joint has a wide range of movements. With this characteristics, it’s prone to a large variety of injuries. It’s made out of three bones: humerus, clavicle and scapula or shoulder blade. Between these bones, there are cartilage cushions which absorb the pressure from the joint. The shoulder has two joints in it, the acromioclavicular joint between the collarbone and shoulder blade, and the second one, the glenohumeral joint which engages the humerus and a part of a scapula. Due to its circulating and rotating possibilities, there are cases that these bones get hurt or their tendons get strained. Other than trauma injuries, there are many diseases that can affect the shoulder, resulting in the pain in that area. Here are some causes.
It happens quite often to have a shoulder injury. Because it has a wide range of movement, it can get dislocated, strained, stretched and compressed. The cause is usually obvious by itself and it can start with mild or a strong, stabbing pain in the shoulder area. This type of injuries is more common in athletes and in people who have a tendency to overuse the shoulder joint. It can get pretty painful and result in the recurrent event if the tendons get strained so much that every other time, the movement gets riskier. It can be a long healing process, sometimes to a period of a few months with chronic pain which does not need to be strong, but strong enough to cause discomfort.
Other than injuries that affect muscles and tendons, there are traumas that can lead to bone fractures. The bones which can break are collarbone, humerus and shoulder blade. It can be followed up with excruciating pain accompanied by swelling, bruising and redness on the skin.
Treatment. The injuries that resulted in broken bones have to be taken care of with a medical assistance. If you’re having trouble with moving your arm and it feels dislocated, bruised and extremely painful, you should see a doctor. It will probably need some kind of immobilisation with a prescription for painkillers. If the condition is a mild damage, you can start with putting ice on the affected area to prevent the bruising and swelling. You should not keep it cold for longer than 15 minutes. After you feel a bit numb, remove the cold compress and rest a bit. You can switch it up for a few times. After you feel like you have less pain, you should put some bandage and try to relief the joint from pressure and load. Put your arm in a position where it has the least pressure and secure it with immobilisation. You should avoid any activity for a few days.
There are some conditions that can lead to pain that is not caused by injury or an accident. Here are some examples.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
This is a condition which affects the tendons and the muscles that form the shoulder joint. They can get inflamed leading to pain in the left shoulder. Athletes have more predisposition to this kind of irritation, but it can happen even in the positions where there is an overuse of the shoulder such as sleeping on it all the time, activities that include extending your arm above your head, computer posture where the shoulder stands in one position for hours, etc. The pain can start with movement, swelling and sore muscles. It can get painful to reach your back or to raise the arm. The pain level can be such that it can wake you up from your night sleep.
Treatment. The first thing you should do is rest. You should avoid any activity which causes the pain. If you have swelling and pain even without any movement, try to put cold compresses 3-4 times a day. There are some painkillers that you can use, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. If it doesn’t calm down from conservative therapy, you may need some steroid injections, physical therapy or even surgery.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which leads to cartilage tear and reduction of the joint cushion. Since the protective tissue is being depleted, the bones rub against each other resulting in friction and more damage. It is more common in elderly and affects more than one-third of adults over 65. It can include symptoms like pain, stiffness, swelling.
Treatment. It is a slow-developing disease, but there is no cure for it. You can try and keep your weight optimal to reduce any extra pressure and load on the joint, include physical activity. If you are having a severe pain, a doctor can prescribe you some painkillers. There are also some possibilities for shoulder surgery.
A disc hernia is a condition caused by disc dislocation which can happen inside the backbone. There are many causes, from a sudden move that can dislocate the cushion to a disease which thins down the intervertebral disc causing protrusion. It can result in pain in the spine that can radiate toward the legs or shoulder. It can also cause tingling sensation and numbness.
Treatment. You should probably need medical intervention, from a drug prescription to physical therapy and even surgery.
Adhesive capsulitis or a frozen shoulder is a condition which represents in shoulder stiffness, pain and reduction in a range of movements. There are many causes that can lead to this consequence such as diabetes, stroke, overuse of shoulder joint, injury. It is often related to chronical diseases that prevent the arm from moving and it is more common in women after postmenopause. It usually starts gradually and progresses over time.
Treatment. It is treated with therapy that includes exercise with a wide range of movements, numbing medications and corticosteroids. To a lesser extent, there are some cases that could require surgery to loosen the capsule so it relieves the pressure and ease the movement of the shoulder joint.