Shoulder pain is a serious medical problem that can impede your mobility by making it difficult to move your arms and upper body freely. This discomfort may be caused by a variety of sources. If affected, it is important to explore common symptoms and their related causes to learn why you are suffering.
Anatomy of the Shoulder
Tendons, ligaments, and bursae make up the human shoulder. Injuries affect bones, ligaments, cartilage, or menisci and can cause discomfort in one or multiple areas. The extreme and regular mobility of this joint makes it a common injury site. If an accident occurs, an injury could create swelling of the bursae or the tendons. Bone fractures can also occur after an impact or a fall.
Shoulder pain is a clear indicator of injuries in this joint. You may experience intense discomfort with pulling, lifting, or pushing movements. Symptoms may have a gradual or a sudden onset, depending on the cause.
Issues with Sudden Onset
Rotator cuff muscles are located throughout the shoulder and are common injury sites for many. An injury to one of these muscles involves intense and sudden pain. The sensations may travel down the arm, or they may remain localized at the location of the muscles. With movement, discomfort may intensify. Some people also have unpleasant sensations when lying in bed.
Sometimes shoulder pain can occur as a result of an unrelated issue in the back or the neck. The mechanisms of our bodies are all connected. Problems that start in the back or neck can easily transfer to other regions. This radiating discomfort may travel down the arm and even into the fingers.
Dislocated joints occur when bones in the joint separate and the connective tissue tears. This separation usually happens after a fall in which the person extends an arm to attempt to break the impact. Intense and severe pain will travel down the arm. A person will usually feel a specific moment of popping. Muscle spasms and numbness often follow the separation.
A labral tear may involve the cartilage lining of the joint. This injury may happen in connection with a dislocation after a fall. A person will often hear and feel a clicking sound with movement.
Issues with Gradual Onset Pain
Osteoarthritis of this joint can cause the gradual onset of shoulder pain. Often stiffness is the first hint of a problem. Over time, the stiffness will progress to reduced mobility and a dull ache. Physical therapy can initially help with unpleasant symptoms.
Adhesive capsulitis involves an unpleasant freezing of the joint that leads to reduced mobility and pain. At the onset, a dull ache will present itself. Over time, the ache will spread and become worse. Eventually, stiffening will set in, making it difficult to lift and move the arm. It’s common for symptoms to improve and worsen in different phases.
Whenever you experience shoulder pain that interferes with your range of motion and everyday tasks, see a physician to diagnose the cause of the discomfort immediately. Some issues can be progressive, so it’s best to diagnose early to prevent them from intensifying. Quick action and knowledge are key to preventing long-term shoulder issues.