Causes of Shoulder Pain
Most shoulder discomfort involves the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, rather than bones which make it difficult to decide if the shoulder pain is from muscle soreness or injury. Fortunately, the shoulder is one of the least likely joints to develop arthritic conditions however, certain arthritic conditions can occur and also cause shoulder pain.
Topics below cover two common areas of shoulder problems.
Arthritis is a term that is defined as inflammation of the joint and used to describe over 100 different conditions that can affect the human body. Arthritis affects millions of Americans each year with symptoms including pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of motion in affected joints.
There are three types of arthritis that generally affect the shoulder; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post traumatic arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, results in the wearing out of the cartilage that protects the bones in the joints. Once cartilage is damaged or destroyed, cartilage cannot repair or replace itself like many other body tissues. Shoulder cartilage can be compared to the tread of an automobile tire, very durable but susceptible to wear over time. As we age, the tread surface slowly erodes until the underlying bone is exposed. This exposed bone can be painful when the joint moves and bears weight.
Often the cause of arthritis is unknown, but may develop as a result of injury to the joint, excess body weight, or years of wear and tear on the joint cartilage. There is no known cure. The best that doctors can do for patients is to restore motion and reduce pain.
Common symptoms of osteoarthritis of the shoulder
- Severe shoulder pain that limits everyday activity
- Shoulder pain at night causing sleeplessness
- Chronic swelling of the shoulder with morning stiffness
- Limited range of motion
- Feeling of grinding or locking of shoulder
- Decreased activity
- Impaired lifestyle
- Grinding pain during movement
Arthritic Shoulder in Motion
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic inflammatory condition of the joint lining, or synovium where the body’s immunological system attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation of the joint lining and subsequent joint damage. When rheumatoid arthritis is present, the cartilage is not being provided with enough lubrication and nourishment. This leads to loss of motion and pain in the shoulder.
Post traumatic Arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that develops after an injury, such as a fracture or dislocation of the shoulder or after a rotator cuff tear.
There are many different types of shoulder injuries; however, there are a few that are more common than others. Common types of injuries are rotator cuff tears, biceps tendon rupture, Bankart lesion, and Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior (SLAP) lesions.
Many of these injuries can occur from long-term overuse, such as repetitive lifting, pushing, pulling and throwing. For this reason, athletes and skilled workers are particularly prone to shoulder injuries.
Rotator cuff injuries are very common sport related injuries, especially in sports that require repetitive overhead arm motions. The group of muscles and ligaments in the shoulder is called the rotator cuff. It is located near the under part of the shoulder blade and provides stability and range of motion to the joint whenever it moves.
Symptoms usually include pain, weakness and tenderness in the shoulder when reaching overhead, or behind the back, and when pulling and lifting items. Symptoms may show up immediately or gradually, depending on the extent of the injury.
A Bicep Tendon Tear can occur from lifting heavy objects, falling on an outstretched arm or playing contact sports. The bicep tendon attaches the biceps muscles to the shoulder, providing leverage for lower arm movement. Symptoms include pain, swelling and certain muscle movements may seem weak.
The Bankart Lesion Tear is a common cause of instability in the shoulder. This kind of tear can occur from stress on the front of the shoulder when performing overhead activities like throwing or serving a tennis ball. Another way to develop a bankart lesion is when a shoulder dislocates.
Symptoms of a bankart lesion often include a sense of instability and aching in the shoulder. The patient usually experiences repetition of the dislocation or a catching sensation in the shoulder.
Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior (SLAP) Lesion Tear is usually seen in overhead throwing athletes such as baseball players and tennis players. An injury to this part of the body typically happens due to overuse, trauma and accidents such as falling onto an outstretched hand.
Symptoms of a SLAP Lesion include pain and soreness in the front of the shoulder when bending the elbow or turning the wrist. Some also experience a click or snap with movement of the shoulder and it may feel like the shoulder is being dislocated.
All patient education materials are provided by OrthoPatientEd.com and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician.