The shoulder has a highly complicated and interesting anatomy. The shoulder region is an important piece of the human upper body and is regularly a site for muscle, ligament, and bone pains. Muscles from the shoulder travel in all directions and are connected to other muscles in the arm, neck, and back. These muscles allow the shoulder to perform a vast variety of motions but also allows for an increase risk of problems that can cause pain. The human shoulder comprises of the clavicle, humerus, glenoid, scapula, and several other soft tissue structures. There are several joints in the region such as the glenohumeral joint, the sternoclavicular joint, and the scapulothoracic joint. The glenohumeral joint is the region where most shoulder pain derives because it lacks a bony stability that would otherwise keep the shoulder from moving.
At BPI we see patients with five of the most common shoulder pain issues and injuries. Since each shoulder injury is highly different from the other and requires different treatments we will differentiate between these shoulder scenarios.
A common cause of shoulder pain in injured workers, the elderly and young athletes is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis is basically due to an overuse of the shoulder joints and ligaments that occurs over time. Any form of arthritis is due to the wearing away of the protective cartilage that prevents bones from rubbing against one another. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the shoulder and is caused by the joints becoming inflamed and eventually wearing away the cartilage and bone.
Shoulder Arthritis Symptoms:
Intense pain throughout the shoulder while performing physical activities
A limited range of shoulder motion
Swelling in the joint regions
A grinding sensations when movement is performed
It is important to note that most people who suffer from shoulder arthritis will report having good days and bad days with their shoulders. Some weeks the shoulder pain may disappear entirely and the next week it may return even worse than before. The pain usually worsens over time as the remaining protective cartilage begins to dissipate, as well.
Shoulder Arthritis Treatment
Medication–Patients may take anti-inflammatory pills as well as medications for pain. Most of these medications can be purchased over-the-counter while stronger doses may be prescribed by a doctor.
Physical Therapy–Muscles near the shoulder joint should be stretched and strengthened through physical therapy. This allows for the neighboring muscles of the shoulder to take on more of the load and release pressure from the shoulder.
Rehabilitation–The shoulder muscles, joints, and bones should be limited in their use. This is especially important for arthritis patients because the more strain and stretching that is placed on the shoulder the more worn down the cartilage becomes. Patients who receive shoulder replacements will need to work their shoulder slowly until they become used to the limited range of motion that comes with replacing the shoulder.
Injection–Cortisone injections can help relieve pain and ease the swelling that is associated with shoulder arthritis. These injections will not cure the arthritis but can help to relieve many of the symptoms that accompany the arthritis.
Surgery–Shoulder replacement surgery is a possibility for some patients with arthritis. The worn down cartilage is removed from the shoulder and replaced with an artificial ball-and-socket implant. This operation provides patients with pain relief and prevents further damaging the cartilage by replacing it entirely.