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Shoulder Pain and Treatment Options

Posted: Apr 8, 2018 | Last Updated: Jun 8, 2018

Has your shoulder been hurting recently? You're not alone. A recent study suggests that 14%-26% of people experience shoulder pain at any given time. The shoulder is also the third most common joint to receive total replacement surgery.

If your shoulder pain persists, it can hurt your ability to move and perform various actions. This may lead to you giving up hobbies, missing work, retiring early, or even job loss.

Don't leave your shoulder pain untreated! Shoulder pain can be very hard to diagnose, but we have a lot of experience at Orthopaedic Associates of Muskegon. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about your shoulder problems.

Why Is Shoulder Pain so Common?

The shoulder is a unique ball and socket joint. The socket part that connects to the humeral head is relatively flat. This lets us move and rotate our shoulder in more ways. Because of the bony constraints, the shoulder is highly reliant on a complex system of soft tissues and muscle in order to work. This places a lot of strain on the soft tissues when in motion, which increases your risk for injury.

Shoulder motion is reliant on four joints: glenohumeral, scapulothoracic, acromioclavicluar, and sternoclavicular. As a result, most shoulder pain is tied to problems with one of these joints. Injuries to the shoulder may be acute or a more insidious injury that worsens with time.

Diagnosing Shoulder Injuries

Diagnosis starts with a review of your medical history. We will then conduct a physical exam, and order imaging tests if they are needed. X-rays help with identifying arthritis, but can also demonstrate signs of subacromial impingement, rotator cuff disease, and instability. Often, we will need an MRI to identify rotator cuff, labral, and biceps injuries. If you can't have an MRI, ultrasound can be a very helpful tool, especially for looking at your rotator cuff.

Acute Injuries and Treatment

Acute injuries include fractures, dislocations, traumatic rotator cuff injuries, and infection. These are often more serious injuries and require more urgent care.

Displaced fractures around the shoulder may need open reduction with internal plate and screws to maintain alignment. Dislocations of the glenohumeral joint require emergent reduction in the emergency room. Traumatic rotator cuff tears can occur in younger patients and must be repaired surgically. Suspected shoulder infections also require emergent surgery to preserve the joint surface. We will perform surgery open or arthroscopic, depending on the diagnosis and extent of injury.

Insidious Injuries and Treatment

Non-traumatic shoulder injuries are more subtle and tend to be more chronic issues. These may include soft tissues (rotator cuff, labrum, biceps tendon), arthritis, instability, and scapulothoracic dysfunction (SD). 

Patients with rotator cuff disease will often feel pain when lifting their arm above their head. Night pain is also very common. Younger patients who complain of catching and popping in the shoulder may have a labral tear. A tear on the biceps tendon can feel like pain in the front of the shoulder and may get worse when you flex your elbow. Patients with shoulder arthritis will feel discomfort at night and have a limited, painful range of motion. Patients with instability will often feel the shoulder slipping or falling out of place. Rotation of your shoulder will also be very unpleasant. SD can cause shoulder pain, but you will most likely also have pain along your shoulder blade.

Treatment for most insidious shoulder injuries uses anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy or home exercises, cortisone injections, and modified activity. Many shoulder conditions will improve over time with these treatments. However, this may not always relieve your symptoms and you may need surgery.

We Can Help

If you or someone you know is suffering from shoulder pain, please reach out to us! Request an appointment online or call our office at 231-733-1326. Let us help you get back to feeling yourself again!

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