Your shoulder is a complex part of your body and that means when you have shoulder pain, it could be caused by a variety of different things. To understand shoulder pain, first we need to know a little bit about how the shoulder is constructed.
There are three bones and a variety of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that make up you shoulder. Your upper arm bone – your humerus – ends under your shoulder blade (also called your scapula). This spot where the humerus ends is the joint called the glenoid. The head of the humerus is covered with muscles and tendons that attach the humerus to the scapula and keep it in place, while still allowing it full range of motion. These muscles and tendons are called the rotator cuff. If any of these muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones are out of place or get injured, you can suffer from limited shoulder and arm movement as well as shoulder pain.
Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain
There are literally dozens of reasons you may experience shoulder pain, some of which are quite serious. For instance, if your shoulder pain has come on suddenly and is accompanied by shortness of breath, you could be having a heart attack. In this case you will need immediate medical attention. But not to worry: most shoulder pain is a bother, but not caused by emergency medical situations. Here are the top four most common causes of shoulder pain:
1. Tendon problems
Tendons connect muscles to bone. The most commonly injured tendons in your shoulder are the four that are part of the rotator cuff. Tendons can be damaged by long-term degeneration, repetitive use, or sudden traumatic injury. They cause pain and, in some cases, make it difficult or impossible to move your shoulder and arm in certain ways.
Dislocation happens when the top of the humerus – the upper arm bone – comes out of the shoulder socket. In most cases, dislocation happens because of a sudden injury, but dislocation can also occur as results of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that are supposed to keep the bone in place wearing down or loosening over time. Dislocation can be partial – called a subluxation – or total. Dislocations generally require medical attention in order to get the bones back in place.
Arthritis is the painful inflammation and stiffness of the body’s joints. Since the shoulder contains a large joint, arthritis in the shoulder can be quite painful. Most people experience some arthritis beginning in middle age as the cushioning between bones in their joints begins to degrade. In joints that are used frequently or are subject to repetitive movements, arthritis may set in earlier than it does in other joints.
As most people are aware, fractures or breaks in the bone usually occur from sudden injuries. If you believe you may have fractured your collar bone, shoulder bone, or arm, you should seek medical attention. Fractured bones that are not set correctly can cause long-term pain and movement problems, especially in the shoulder area.
Shoulder Pain That’s a Pain in the Neck – Literally!
In some cases, your shoulder pain may be caused by a problem in your neck. There are a number of nerves that pass through the shoulder area that come from your neck. If these nerves become compressed in your neck, you may feel pain in your shoulder and arm.
It can be difficult to diagnose the cause of this type of shoulder pain because pain can be different in nearly anyone experiencing cervical nerve problems. The pain can be:
• Mild or severe
• Dull or sharp
• Constant or periodic (it comes and goes)
• Centered only in the shoulder or travel down the arm
So how do you know if your shoulder pain is actually being caused by a problem in your neck? Well, first of all, if you’ve ruled out the four most common causes of shoulder pain or if you’ve been treated for one or more of them and you are still experiencing pain, you might very well have a cervical nerve issue. Another key sign of a cervical nerve problem is getting pins-and-needles or numbness in your shoulder, arm, or even fingers.
Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Pain
Chiropractic offers a number of different benefits to people who are experiencing shoulder pain. While chiropractors are known to specialize in treating the spine, what many people don’t know is that chiropractors are also specialists in joint alignment. If your shoulder pain is being caused by a joint that is not in precise alignment, gentle and non-invasive chiropractic treatment can often lessen symptoms, or even make them go away all together.
Chiropractic care is especially useful when the cause of shoulder pain is a pinched or compressed cervical nerve. In that case, subtle adjustments to the alignment of the upper spine can often release pressure on the nerve, thereby eliminating the accompanying shoulder pain.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, please call our offices and arrange an appointment with one of our board-certified chiropractors. We can evaluate your shoulder and spine and help you decide on the best course of treatment.