There are many different reasons for shoulder pain, and each one has its own set of symptoms.
Depending on the source of your shoulder pain, you may experience the following symptoms:
- The pain is located deep within the shoulder joint, in the back or front of the shoulder, and in the upper arm. Occasionally, shoulder pain can be described as a ‘catching pain.’ The location and nature of the pain are almost certainly related to the structure that is causing it.
- There is a decreased range of motion and pain when moving your shoulder.
- upper arm/shoulder weakness depends on the severity of the condition, the joint may feel as if it is slipping out and back into the joint socket, or the shoulder may become completely dislodged (dislocated).
- Pins and needles (tingling) sensations and burning pain. This is more likely due to neck nerves than the shoulder joint itself.
- immobility following a shoulder dislocation. This is frequently caused by pain. Both complete rotator cuff tears and axillary nerve injury result in weakness in the arm’s ability to move away from the body. These conditions necessitate a thorough clinical examination.
Diagnosing shoulder discomfort
Practitioners of medicine who treat shoulder pain are trained to investigate and pinpoint the precise cause of the condition or injury that is causing the pain. They will accomplish this by:
- Inquiring about your shoulder pain, including possible causes (e.g., recent injuries, other health conditions), whether you have ever had shoulder pain, what aggravates your pain, and what alleviates it
- Perform a thorough physical examination.
They can then determine the likelihood of specific shoulder structures being involved based on this information. Occasionally, they will suggest that additional investigations or tests may be necessary.
It’s critical to understand that many investigations reveal ‘changes’ to your shoulder that are likely due to the normal passage of time (even by age 45), not ‘damage.’ An experienced health practitioner can assist you in determining the distinction.
X-rays produce images of the bones and joints in your body. They may demonstrate changes caused by shoulder arthritis (e.g., bone spurs, narrowed joint space) or fractures. However, x-rays reveal no changes or abnormalities in your soft tissues (e.g. muscles, tendons).
Ultrasounds are typically used to check for inflammation, tears, or rupture of the rotator cuff tendon. While ultrasound can help you find the source of your pain, it cannot make a diagnosis on its own.If an ultrasound is ordered, an x-ray should be scheduled as well. Both tests will give you a more complete picture of the condition of your joints and tendons.
CT and MRI scans
Typically, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are not the first tests performed to evaluate shoulder pain. They may be used in the event of a suspected fracture or an accident. These scans will help doctors figure out how bad the injury is and if more tests and treatment by a surgeon are needed.
There are numerous treatments available for shoulder pain.
- Physiotherapy: One of the initial treatment modalities is physiotherapy and modification of activities that aggravate your pain. Physiotherapy is intended to address issues such as stiffness and weakness. In addition, it will help you learn how to do the things that made your shoulder hurt while you were playing, working, or going about your daily life again as soon as possible.
- Heat and cold packs may help alleviate pain and stiffness temporarily.
- Paracetamol and low-dose anti-inflammatories can help you manage pain while you work to keep and restore movement and function, such as when you have a cold or the flu. Consult your doctor before using these medications if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease. Medication is not a long-term solution for shoulder pain. If your pain persists, you should consult your doctor about other treatment options.
- Hydro dilatation may be recommended in cases of frozen shoulder. This is a joint injection of fluid (saline and steroid). There is evidence to support this treatment for symptom relief and range of motion improvement. Physiotherapy in the days following treatment has been shown to improve outcomes.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can be taken over-the-counter to treat mild pain, such as aches and pains. NSAIDs and acetaminophen both alleviate muscle pain and stiffness, and NSAIDs also help to decrease inflammation (swelling and irritation). Creams, lotions, and sprays that can be applied to the skin to alleviate pain and inflammation from aching muscles and arthritis are also available.
In the event that over-the-counter medications aren’t working, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety drugs (such as diazepam [Valium]), antidepressants (such as duloxetine [Cymbalta] for musculoskeletal pain), prescription NSAIDs (such as celecoxib [Celebrex]), or a short course of stronger painkillers (such as codeine, fent (Lorcet, Lortab, and Vicodin).
If the pain does not subside, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection. While it is critical to understand that all medications have potential side effects, for the majority of people, receiving an injection to help alleviate pain while they work on recovery is well tolerated. Depending on your circumstances, the injection may be repeated once or twice. Maintaining a pain diary will enable you to monitor its effectiveness and determine whether additional forms of treatment are necessary. At Doral Health, the experts in pain management are readily available to help you alleviate your pain.