Shoulder Pain


The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body.

The shoulder joint is formed where the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the scapula (shoulder blade), like a ball and socket. Other important bones in the shoulder include:

  • The acromion, or acromion process, is a bony projection off the scapula.

  • The clavicle (collarbone) meets the acromion in the acromioclavicular joint.

  • The coracoid process is a hook-like bony projection from the scapula.

The shoulder has several other important structures:

  • The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, giving it support and allowing a wide range of movements.

  • The bursa is a small sac of fluid that cushions and protects the tendons of the rotator cuff.

  • A cuff of cartilage called the labrum forms a cup for the ball-like head of the humerus to fit into.

The humerus fits relatively loosely into the shoulder joint. This gives the shoulder a wide range of movements, but also makes it vulnerable to injury.

Shoulder pain is quite common, affecting around three in 10 adults at some time during their lives.

What causes shoulder pain?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint with a large range of movement. Such a mobile joint tends to be more susceptible to injury. Shoulder pain can stem from one or more of the following causes:

  • The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, giving it support and allowing a wide range of movements.

  • Strains from Overexertion

  • Tendonitis from Overuse

  • Shoulder Joint Instability

  • Dislocation

  • Collar or Upper-Arm Bone Fractures

  • Frozen Shoulder

  • Pinched Nerves (also called Radiculopathy)

Who is at risk of shoulder pain?

People at risk of getting shoulder pain range from those who play contact sport like rugby, to those with condition such as diabetes and overactive thyroid.

Suffering a traumatic incident, such as a car accident may also result in shoulder pain.

Therapy

  • Physical Therapy. A physical therapist can address pain, walking, mobility, bracing and equipment needs that help you stay independent. Practicing low-impact exercises may help maintain your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and range of motion for as long as possible.

    A physical therapist can also help you adjust to a brace, walker or wheelchair and may suggest devices such as ramps that make it easier for you to get around.

    Regular exercise can also help improve your sense of well-being. Appropriate stretching can help prevent pain and help your muscles function at their best.

  • Occupational Therapy. An occupational therapist can help you find ways to remain independent. Adaptive equipment can help you perform daily activities such as dressing, grooming, eating and bathing.

    An occupational therapist can also help you modify your home to allow accessibility if you have trouble walking safely.

    Occupational therapists also have a good understanding of how assistive technology and computers can be used, even if your hands are weak.


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