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Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is made up of bones held in place by a number of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bursa that work together to enable you to do everything from raise your hand to wave hello or throw an object, or reach out to pull a car door open or scratch your back.  Unfortunately, all of that mobility comes at the expense of stability leaving the shoulder, with its many moving parts, prone to common injury. 

In fact, shoulder injuries are so common that nearly 70 percent of the population will experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives.  Like other aches and pains, shoulder injuries can vary greatly in severity, depending on whether the problem is in the joint or the tissues. 

Many shoulder injuries are overuse injuries that occur over time and may (or may not) have started as a mild pain that got increasingly worse.  Others are from more sudden traumatic incidents like accidents or falls. 

The most common shoulder injuries are:

Rotator Cuff Issues. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint that keeps it in line with the ball of the upper arm.  Issues with the rotator cuff make up the bulk of shoulder pain complaints and range from tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder) that develops after performing the same motion repeatedly, to partial and full tears, generally from a more sudden traumatic movement. The pain is usually a dull ache that worsens when you raise your arm or sleep on the affected side. 

Frozen Shoulder. This happens when the soft tissues of the shoulder joint thicken and become inflamed to the point that mobility is drastically limited, if not impossible. The pain is usually in the whole of the shoulder radiating to the upper arm. Frozen shoulder often happens when the shoulder mobility is already limited due to another injury or illness.

Bursitis. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs between the muscles and bones of the shoulder that reduce friction and allow for easier movement.  When they get irritated through overuse of the joint, they can become inflamed, collect too much fluid and cause a deep ache in the shoulder region that feels warm and swollen to the touch. 

Shoulder Impingement.  Another repetitive use injury, shoulder impingement happens when the tendons and bursa of the shoulder area become pinched together after repeated athletic or work activity that requires overhead arm motions. Painful in and of itself, shoulder impingement can weaken the rotator cuff so it’s important to treat before it causes further damage. 

Labral Tears. The soft ring of cartilage that rims the edge of the shoulder socket is called the labrum. Over time, particularly with active people, the labrum can fray or tear causing pain when lifting your arm above your head or reaching it across your chest.  

Osteoarthritis. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a result of natural wear and tear on the joint causing a breakdown in the cartilage that serves as a cushion between joints.  As bones rub directly against each other, pain and inflammation limit range of motion. 

Unstable Shoulder. If the shoulder joint is too loose in the socket or, worse, dislocated, the mechanisms of the shoulder are unstable to the point the patient can feel the joint moving in, around or out of the socket.  

Chiropractic for Shoulder Pain

While some common shoulder injuries do require surgery, many can be successfully treated through chiropractic therapies designed to thin, loosen and free up the soft tissues of the shoulder.  Gentle adjustments to the shoulder can shift the joint forward or back, depending on the misalignment, and relieve muscle spasms, inflammation and pain.  Often, adjustments to the neck and back can also relieve shoulder pain. 

When done in conjunction with chiropractic rehab and the use of specialized therapeutic tools, the muscles of the shoulder can be stretched and strengthened to improve the overall mechanics of the joint. Contact us about chiropractic therapies to address your shoulder discomfort. 

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