Shoulder Pain

Background

The shoulder is a complicated joint and there are many structures both within the shoulder area and outside it that can lead to pain which is felt in the shoulder or upper arm.

In order to identify what is causing the shoulder pain, your doctor will ask you some specific questions about when it started and the nature of the pain. They will proceed on to a careful examination to find if there are areas of the shoulder that are tender and whether particular movements exacerbate the pain. They will also assess the muscles around the shoulder. All of this narrows down the possible causes. Finally, some investigations may be required such as xrays and special scans.

 

Causes

Pain felt in the shoulder may be coming from the neck or surrounding structures, or directly from the shoulder itself. Within the shoulder there are also many structures which can cause shoulder pain. These include the bones as well as the tendons and other soft tissues.

 

Symptoms

The nature of the pain in your shoulder may vary depending on the cause. In addition, people often report associated problems such as stiffness or weakness in the shoulder, as well as pain in surrounding areas such as the neck and back. Particular activities both inside and outside work may also be restricted.

 

Treatment - non-surgical

Often avoiding activities which cause the pain may be enough for it to settle on its own. This may be helped with physiotherapy. An injection may be useful to reduce the pain and also as part of the diagnostic process.

 

Treatment - surgical

For some people surgery is needed to tackle ongoing pain not helped with non-surgical treatment, or where the problem is better treated with early surgery. Your doctor will be able to help advise you with regard to the best way forward for your particular shoulder pain.

 

Outcome

In the majority of cases a cause for your shoulder pain is identified. In some cases there may be more than one cause, however these can often be addressed at the same time. Unfortunately, in a few cases, after extensive investigation and assessment there is not a solution for the pain. For these people, it is about managing the pain and adopting strategies to improve their day to day lives. There are also a variety of techniques for pain control.