The Most Common Types of Shoulder Pain, Explained

The shoulder is an efficient combination of joints, muscles and tendons that enable a wide variety of movement and range of motion. However, its utility and versatility make the shoulder prone to a variety of injuries and conditions. In fact, shoulder pain will affect up to 70 percent of the population in their lifetime. It can be disabling and result in a host of unwanted consequences.

Below are some of the most common painful shoulder conditions:

Biceps Tendinitis

The biceps tendon is a structure that connects the biceps muscle to the humerus (upper arm bone) bone near the shoulder joint. Biceps tendinitis, a common cause of shoulder pain, is an irritation or inflammation of the upper part of the tendon.

Causes

Often, biceps tendonitis is due to wear and tear. It can also be connected to other shoulder issues, such as instability, shoulder impingement or a rotator cuff injury. It is particularly associated with damage to the rotator cuff tendon.

Repeated motion in work or sport—particularly those activities that require overhead motion, such as construction work, painting, swimming, tennis and baseball—can also cause biceps tendinitis.

Treatments

  • Rest (from overhead activity)
  • Ice
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgery-If more conservative measures have been exhausted, surgery may be indicated. This may entail biceps tenodesis, which is detaching the tendon from the shoulder socket and reattaching it to the upper arm bone.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is involved every time you move your shoulder. It helps to stabilize the shoulder. So, it stands to reason that it is a commonly injured area. Rotator cuff tears can either be partial or incomplete (a tear that is frayed), or complete, which entails a tear that goes completely through the tendon.

Causes

There are two main causes of rotator cuff tears. They can occur from an acute injury (such as a fall or other cause of severe twisting motion of the joint). An acute injury can also be caused by the stress of improperly lifting a heavy object.

However, most rotator cuff tears occur due to progressive degeneration (wear and tear) over time. The incidence of tears increases with aging. It is important to determine the cause of a rotator cuff tear since this impacts what treatment is recommended.

Treatments

  • Rest
  • Modified activity
  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgery: If conservative measures have not offered relief or if the tear is severe, surgery may be indicated. This is particularly the case for athletes or those who engage in repetitive overhead movement, since many tears do not heal on their own.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement syndrome, which is also sometimes called “bursitis” or “tendinitis”, occurs with the repetitive compression (“impingement”) of the rotator cuff during movement. A thorough and careful examination is the best approach to a personalized diagnosis.

Causes

Shoulder impingement is also the result of repeated overhead activity involving the shoulder. It can also be caused by a shoulder injury. Finally, in some cases, there is no known cause of the condition.

Treatment

  • Rest (from overhead activity)
  • Ice
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections 

Surgery: If other treatments do not provide results, surgery may be indicated to increase the space around the rotator cuff. The procedure, which can usually be done with minimally invasive arthroscopy, allows free movement without the compression or rubbing on the bone and the resulting pain.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, technically called adhesive capsulitis, is a condition causing stiffness, pain and immobility in the shoulder joint. It is due to a thickening and tightening of the shoulder joint capsule which restricts room for movement.

Causes

While the causes are usually unclear and cannot be identified, some people suffer frozen shoulder following a recent injury or fracture to the area which resulted in a need to immobilize the shoulder. In about 10 to 20 percent of cases, it can be caused by diabetes. Other medical problems may put people at risk for frozen shoulder (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s and cardiac disease).

Treatments

  • Medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgery is rarely required for frozen shoulder. Although recovery can take a long time (up to a couple of years), in the majority of people it resolves on its own with the use of nonsurgical treatments. In the event of surgery, manipulation under anesthesia and/or arthroscopy are performed to release the scar tissue.

If you’re having shoulder pain, contact us today to find out what’s wrong and how we can help.

5 Simple Stretches for Sciatica

Sciatica can be a real pain in the back, among other things.

Also known as lumbar radiculopathy, sciatica (pronounced sci-at-ick-aa) is a term used to described a series of symptoms—most notably, pain—that occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated. This large nerve runs from your lower back, past the buttocks and down each leg.

Sciatica is currently estimated to be the cause of low back pain in five to 10 percent of Americans.

What are some stretches to alleviate sciatica symptoms?

The beauty of creating a routine to manage your sciatic pain is that it also serves as a way to prevent sciatic pain and other symptoms from making a reappearance. In fact, though it may seem unlikely (or unpleasant), exercising actually helps to improve symptoms better than bed rest.

One of the forms of exercise to help relieve sciatica is performing stretches that externally rotate the hip. Here are five stretches that do just that:

  1. Reclining Pigeon Pose
    • While lying on your back, bring your right leg up to a right angle. Grip both hands behind the thigh and lock your fingers.
    • Lift your left leg and place your right ankle on top of the left knee.
    • Hold the position for a moment, then repeat with the other leg.
  2. Sitting Pigeon Pose (to be done once the reclining pigeon pose can be performed with ease)
    • Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you.
    • Bend your right leg, putting your right ankle on top of the left knee.
    • Lean forward and allow your upper body to reach toward your thigh.
    • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Knee to Opposite Shoulder
    • Lie on your back with your legs extended, and your feet stretched upward.
    • Bend your right leg and fasten your hands around the knee.
    • Lightly pull your right leg across your body toward your left shoulder. Hold it there for 30 seconds.
    • Push your knee so your leg returns to its starting position.
    • Repeat for a total of three reps, and then switch legs.
  4. Sitting Spinal Stretch
    • Sit on the ground with your legs stretched straight out with your feet arched upward.
    • Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the floor on the outside of your opposite knee.
    • Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help you gradually turn your body toward the right.
    • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times, then switch sides.
  5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
    • Place your right foot on a raised surface at or below your hip level. Flex your foot so your toes and leg are straight.
    • Bend your body forward slightly toward your foot (without feeling pain).
    • Release the hip of your raised leg downward as opposed to lifting it up. If you need help easing your hip down, loop a yoga strap or long exercise band over your right thigh and under your left foot.
    • Hold for at least 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.