Shoulder Pain

You don't have to live in pain. Our shoulder pain specialists at Emanuel Medical Center aim to provide you with long-term shoulder pain relief to help you get back to doing the things you love with less pain. We have primary care doctors who treat shoulder injuries or conditions that are not urgent. However, if a patient needs additional care, the patient may be need a specialist:

  • Orthopedic specialist or orthopedic surgeon
  • Rheumatologist
  • Physical medicine or rehabilitation specialist
  • Sports medicine doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Athletic trainer

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with three main bones, namely the humerus (long arm bone), clavicle (collarbone) and scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body and has a wide and versatile range of motion.

The range of motion comes from the rotator cuff, which consists of tendons. These tendons connect muscles to the bone. When the tendons are damaged or swollen, performing daily tasks as simple as brushing or drying your hair can be painful and challenging.

Common Shoulder Pain Conditions

The experienced orthopedists and the compassionate staff at Emanuel Medical Center are here to help with shoulder pain conditions such as:

  • Calcific shoulder tendonitis– when calcium crystals form inside the tendon
  • Calcific periarthritis – occurs when calcium crystals shed from a tendon which causes pain and swelling
  • Frozen shoulder – also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule around the joint tightens, stopping the patient from moving the shoulder. The cause is uncertain, but it usually follows a shoulder injury, a heart attack or stroke and is more common in patients who have diabetes. Frozen shoulder usually resolves through time, but it can take as long as two to three years.
  • Osteoarthritis – osteoarthritis can affect any joint but is less common in the shoulder unless there is a history of shoulder injury or the shoulder joints underwent excessive stress.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatic – usually causes pain and stiffness in the shoulders and the pelvis
  • Referred neck pain – sometimes, shoulder blade pain is caused by referred pain from a shoulder injury or inflammation in the neck
  • Lung conditions – another case of referred pain, shoulder pain may be caused by a lung condition
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – is a type of shoulder arthritis that occurs when there is inflammation in the lining of the joint capsule, which damages cartilage, bones and ligaments
  • Tendon problems – when the tendons are inflamed, damaged or sore
  • Shoulder impingement or painful arc syndrome – occurs when there is a problem (swelling, pain or damage) in the rotator cuff
  • Subacromial bursitis – occurs when there is subacromial bursa inflammation 
  • Rotator cuff tear – a condition more common in people over 40. A torn rotator cuff may cause pain and difficulty in raising the arms above shoulder height
  • Biceps shoulder tendonitis – occurs when the biceps tendon becomes inflamed, which makes it painful to flex the elbow
  • Other shoulder pain conditions

Shoulder Pain Causes

Usually, shoulder pain affects a small area of the body and doesn't last for too long. There are several other shoulder pain causes, namely:

  • Torn cartilage
  • Swollen bursa sacs or tendons
  • Bone spurs (bony projections that develop along the edges of bones)
  • A pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder
  • Broken shoulder or arm bone
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Injury due to overuse or repetitive use
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Heart attack

There are also different shoulder pain causes that may be part of a broader, long-term condition or a referred or radiated pain which means that the pain may be coming from another part of the body.

Treatment of Shoulder Pain at Home

For minor shoulder joint pain, here are things you can do first, such as:

  • Icing the affected area
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine
  • Staying active and keep moving your shoulder
  • Trying shoulder pain exercises from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  • Standing up straight with shoulders down and gently back
  • Sitting with a cushion behind the lower back
  • Resting your arm on a pillow on your lap

Usually, it takes two weeks of doing these treatments and shoulder pain exercises for improvement. It may be time to consult a shoulder pain doctor if pain persists beyond two weeks and/or you experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Inability to move the shoulder
  • Bruising
  • Heat and tenderness around the joint
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain in the neck or jaw

See a shoulder pain doctor immediately if you experience symptoms because some injuries may be harder to treat the longer you wait. Call 911 or go to the nearest shoulder pain hospital if your shoulder is bleeding, swollen or there is exposed tissue.

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

Before prescribing treatment, our orthopedic specialists will investigate and identify the cause of shoulder joint pain.

Orthopedists will usually start by asking questions about the shoulder pain, including potential shoulder pain causes, the history of shoulder pain, when the shoulder hurts and what makes it better. Then they will conduct a physical exam to understand the condition of your shoulders. There may be additional tests to diagnose the shoulder condition, such as:

X-ray-shows images of the bones and joints, which may show the bone spurs, joint space or potential fractures.

Ultrasound-is usually used to investigate if the rotator cuff tendon is inflamed, torn or ruptured. A diagnosis cannot happen with just an ultrasound alone. Ultrasound should be performed with an X-ray to provide a more accurate diagnosis of the tendons and joints.

CT and MRI-additional tests that can confirm a diagnosis if there is a suspected fracture or if there is an accident.

Shoulder Pain Treatment

After diagnosis, shoulder pain doctors at Emanuel Medical Center may prescribe one or a combination of the following treatments:

Many shoulder pain problems can be managed with physiotherapy. Physiotherapists use methods such as:

  • Exercises to strengthen muscles, change coordination and improve their function
  • Improve shoulder, neck and spine posture
  • Exercises to prevent stiffness
  • Exercises to improve the range of movement
  • Using adhesive tape to reduce the strain on tissues and to increase awareness of the shoulder and shoulder blade positions
  • Massage and manipulation of soft tissues and joints

Occupational Therapy
When the injury or shoulder pain is making daily activities (dressing, washing, driving, etc.) difficult, occupational therapists use methods such as:

  • Introduce new ways to do things
  • Advise on the proper use of equipment to reduce strain on the shoulder at home, work or while driving
  • Advise on preventing the pain from continuing or returning;

Steroid injections
A steroid injection can improve shoulder pain quickly. It reduces inflammation and allows the shoulder to move more comfortably. However, using more than two to three steroid injections is not usually recommended because it may cause further damage to the joint.

We understand that surgery may be a last resort, and you can rest assured that before considering surgery, our orthopedic specialists will try to ease your pain with nonsurgical approaches first. However, if nonsurgical techniques do not resolve your shoulder pain, your orthopedist may suggest:

  • Conventional open surgery
  • Shoulder replacement surgery
  • Reverse shoulder replacement

Why Choose Emanuel Medical Center?

Your shoulder pain may limit your ability to work, play and enjoy activities. Emanuel Medical Center's team of experts is ready to get you back to your daily life by reducing or eliminating your pain and stiffness. We offer:

  • Advanced diagnostic imaging
  • Medical and surgical treatments for shoulder injuries and conditions
  • Comprehensive rehabilitation program

Often, shoulder joint pain and conditions are caused by overuse. A shoulder pain hospital such as Emanuel Medical Center gives you access to the technology and medical team you need to restore shoulder function.

Treatment usually begins with pain management, rehabilitation and physical therapy. Using advanced imaging technology, our physicians can provide an accurate diagnosis to develop a customized treatment plan for you. If you require surgery, we have experts who can help restore your shoulder.

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