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Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain Q&A

What causes shoulder pain?

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones, cartilage, and combined with tendons and muscles. Although this physical makeup allows for great range of motion, it can also incur a variety of injuries from a torn rotator cuff to an impinged or frozen shoulder.

What is referred pain from the neck and mid-back?

When the structures in the neck and mid-back are painful, the pain is often felt over the shoulder. It is important to remember this. Your chiropractor will always examine your neck and mid-back when you come in for shoulder pain.

  • Bursitis/ Rotator Cuff Tendinitis: One of the most common causes in patients with shoulder pain is bursitis and tendinitis of the rotator cuff musculature causing impingement syndrome.
  • Frozen Shoulder: Also called ‘adhesive capsulitis’, this is a condition that leads to severely restricted movement of the shoulder. It is not as common as people think and is often misdiagnosed.
  • Shoulder Instability: Instability is a problem that causes a loose or unstable joint. Instability can be caused by a traumatic injury (dislocation), or may develop over time. This can occur with or without producing a secondary impingement syndrome.
  • Shoulder Dislocation: A dislocation is a traumatic injury that occurs when the ball-part of the shoulder joint (top of the arm bone) slips out of the socket (part of the shoulder blade).
  • Ligament injury (Acromio-Clavicular Tear): Also called an A/C separation, these injuries are the result of a disruption of the acromio-clavicular joint. This is a very different injury from a gleno-humeral dislocation.
  • Arthritis: Shoulder arthritis is less common than knee and hip arthritis, but when severe may require a joint replacement surgery. However, arthritic changes are more common in the acromio-clavicular joint between the collarbone and the shoulder blade.

How is Shoulder Pain Treated?

The treatment of shoulder pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem.  Therefore, it is important for the chiropractor to accurately diagnose the problem before any treatment can start. Some of the treatments of shoulder pain include:

  • Rest: The first treatment for many common conditions that cause shoulder pain is to rest the joint, and allow the acute inflammation to subside. It is important, however, to use caution when resting the joint, because prolonged immobilization can cause a frozen shoulder.
  • Ice and Heat Application: Ice packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments for shoulder pain. It is important to use it correctly. If you are not sure which part to cool or heat, ask us!
  • Ultrasound Therapy: With ultrasound, sound waves create deep heat therapy that is applied to the soft tissues and joints. Basically micro-massaging the soft tissues and joints, ultrasound therapy can not only help reduce pain, stiffness, and spasms, but increase blood flow and accelerate the healing process.
  • Electrical Stimulation: During this chiropractic therapy, electrodes are placed on the skin that send light electrical pulses to different areas of the body with the purpose of reducing inflammation, curtailing muscle spasms and relieving pain.  It provides a safe and effective alternative to pharmacological approaches to pain control, with minimum side effects.
  • Dry Needling:  Dry needling (Myofascial Trigger Point Dry Needling) is the use of either solid filiform needles (also referred to as acupuncture needles) or hollow-core hypodermic needles for therapy of muscle pain, including pain related to myofascial pain syndrome.
  • Spinal Adjustment:   spinal manipulation by the chiropractor using their hands or a device to apply a controlled force to a joint of the spine. The amount of force applied depends on the form of manipulation used. The goal of the treatment is to relieve pain and improve physical functioning.
  • Stretching: Stretching the muscles and tendons that surround the joint can help with some causes of shoulder pain, but can also make things worse!
  • Exercise: Rehabilitation exercise is an important part of getting better, but it is important to know what to do and when to start exercises. Some exercises can make your condition worse!