If you’ve ever suffered from shoulder pain, you know how debilitating the condition can be. This guide on shoulder pain will give you all the information you need to understand your pain and treat it effectively so that you can get back to doing what you love again as soon as possible! Topics covered include Types of shoulder pain, causes, diagnosis, treatment options and exercises, and more!
What is shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain is classified as posterior shoulder pain, warm or burning shoulder pain, shooting (radiating) shoulder pain, sharp shoulder pain, or aching shoulder pain. Posterior shoulder pain is when the person experiencing the problem points their palm towards the ground. It’s usually caused by stress on the back of your body which can then be increased if you’re carrying something heavy over your shoulders.
What are the causes of shoulder pain?
There are several causes of shoulder pain in the shoulder area. Some common causes of posterior or anterior shoulder pain can be injuries sustained while lifting, running, or playing sports. A less common cause of posterior shoulder pain is scapulothoracic dysfunction that results from repetitive work activities with one arm elevated simultaneously as the other. Degenerative disorders such as arthritis also cause sudden onset of severe shooting or sharp pain.
What are other common symptoms?
Symptoms of posterior shoulder pain are often a burning sensation that worsens with the extension of the arm (overhead movement). Other symptoms can include stiffness and catching in the joint when reaching over your head. Sometimes the pain might be shooting or radiating from your shoulder.
Your doctor may diagnose this as referred pain coming from elsewhere in your body, like your neck, chest, or back. Sharp pain is also joint and typically more severe than other types of pain. If you’re experiencing sharp pains, it’s best to see a doctor immediately because it could indicate an injury needing immediate attention.
Aching shoulder pain is usually caused by wearing an uncomfortable bra or sitting too long at work without stretching during breaks which causes the muscles to tighten up and become sore.
Types of shoulder pain
There are several types of shoulder pain. The type will determine the treatment that you need. These types include warm or burning shoulder pain, shooting (radiating) shoulder pain, sharp shoulder pain, and aching shoulder pain. Various types of shoulder pain are given below.
Aching shoulder pain
If you’re experiencing aching shoulder pain, some exercises can be done to help loosen muscles. Generally, the more physical activity the injury sustains, the worse the pain will be. This is especially true if a specific joint or muscle strain is sustained.
Sharp shoulder pain
Sharp shoulder pain is a sudden, intense shooting sensation in the shoulder. This type of injury can cause other symptoms such as sweating, muscle spasms, or a feeling of pins and needles. Unlike most injuries that occur gradually over time, this type of shoulder pain will happen suddenly and leave quickly afterward.
Most often, there are no underlying causes for sharp shoulder pain. Still, it can be linked to conditions such as cardiac problems or even improperly healed scar tissue from an earlier surgery or injury.
Shooting (radiating) shoulder pain
Shooting shoulder pain is usually caused by subacromial impingement syndrome (SAIS). The area below the shoulder blade becomes inflamed because of overuse or misalignment. In addition, common causes of SAIS are genetic abnormalities like an enlarged collarbone or bone spurs on the top of the shoulder blade.
Warm or burning shoulder pain
Several things could cause a burning or hot sensation from the shoulder. An inflamed or infected bursa is the most common reason for this type of pain. Your bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions your arm between it and the joint where your shoulder blade meets it. If there is inflammation around the bursa, it can become irritated, leading to the pain you feel. Another cause of a burning sensation in your shoulder could be impingement syndrome.
Posterior Shoulder Pain
If you’re having pain in your posterior shoulder region, you may have sprained or strained one of the muscles in your back. These muscles are called subdeltoid muscles. Though they are different from the other four rotator cuff muscles that play a role in the stability of the shoulder joint, these smaller muscles also support the motion.
How do doctors treat shoulder pain?
Warm or burning shoulder pain usually indicates a sprained muscle or overuse. It typically dissipates over time with rest.
Shooting (radiating) shoulder pain is often the result of a pinched nerve in the neck area, which will often resolve on its own with physical therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Sharp shoulder pain is an indicator of a dislocated joint. The severity of the injury determines whether it’s treated with massage, medication, and surgery.
What does the research say about treatment options?
Shoulders have the most range of motion of any joint in the body and are often highly stressed. While some injuries can be treated with pain management alone, there are three main ways to treat the problem of chronic pain. Physicians can prescribe medication or recommend physical therapy or surgery.
The treatment that best suits you depends on your age, occupation, and severity of symptoms. Some cases respond well to two treatments, while others may need only one type of care.
Can home remedies help with shoulder pain?
Aches in the shoulders or other upper back muscles may also result from an inflamed tendon connecting muscle to bone. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen may help this pain. Additional measures like rest, ice packs for 15 minutes at a time for 48 hours after an injury, and stretching or wearing a shoulder sling can also help.
Yoga is an excellent exercise that helps with flexibility and strength-building without straining the injured area. Finally, consider taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) for more severe cases where using home remedies does not provide relief.
Should you be worried if your shoulder pain goes away on its own?
You should not be too worried if your shoulder pain goes away. Your muscle groups are likely just adjusting or compensating for the injured area as you heal. If your pain resolves itself within a few days or weeks without treatment, it may be nothing serious—even a pulled muscle can resolve without any intervention.
However, in some cases, there is still a need for treatment. The next step is determining whether this condition is chronic (persistent) or acute (temporary). You can tell by how long the pain lasts and how much time has passed since the onset of symptoms. Chronic conditions will last longer than three months with no improvement, while acute conditions will subside slightly in less than three months.
How should you deal with shoulder pain while pregnant?
Shoulders are one of the most vulnerable areas in pregnant women. Doctors agree that it is best for pregnant women with shoulder pain to see a physical therapist. The PT will work on changing the way you use your shoulder muscles. These exercises and techniques can help relieve some of the discomforts you may be feeling.
All exercises should be completed five times daily as part of a home program unless otherwise directed by your physician or physical therapist.
When should you seek immediate medical care for shoulder pain?
It is always better to err on the side of caution, but in most cases, it is safe to wait a day or two before seeking immediate medical care. Of course, if you notice other symptoms like redness or swelling that increase with movement or at night; fever; weakness; or numbness in the arm, hand, fingers, or other areas, you should immediately seek medical help.
In general, shoulder pain will go away without any special treatment after a few days. Contact your doctor if your pain continues beyond five days without relief and no other symptoms appear.
A common reason for shoulder pain is muscle strain from overuse or improper lifting of heavy objects. Your doctor can recommend exercises to help strengthen your shoulder muscles and how often you should take breaks from repetitive movements.
As we’ve discussed, various factors can lead to shoulder pain. While the treatment and prevention of these often vary depending on what’s causing the pain in the first place, one thing remains constant: if you suffer from persistent shoulder pain, you must see your doctor. The initial cause might be as simple as bad posture or an injury, but even if it turns out to be something more serious, like a tear in your rotator cuff, having an early diagnosis is crucial for preserving function and minimizing chronic pain. And don’t forget that regardless of how mild or severe the condition is, doing exercises for shoulder relief is always a good idea!