What most people call the shoulder is really several joints that combine with tendons and muscles to allow a wide range of motion in the arm — from scratching your back to throwing the perfect pitch. Mobility has its price, however. It may lead to increasing problems with instability or impingement of the soft tissue or bony structures in your shoulder, resulting in pain. You may feel pain only when you move your shoulder, or all of the time. The pain may be temporary or it may continue and require medical diagnosis and treatment. This article explains some of the common causes of shoulder pain, as well as some general treatment options. Your doctor can give you more detailed information about your shoulder pain.
Splitting and tearing of tendons may result from acute injury or degenerative changes in the tendons due to advancing age, long-term overuse and wear and tear, or a sudden injury. These tears may be partial or may completely separate the tendon from its attachment to bone. In most cases of complete tears, the tendon is pulled away from its attachment to the bone. Rotator cuff and biceps tendon injuries are among the most common of these injuries.
See your doctor if you have any neck pain or other whiplash symptoms after a car accident, sports injury or other traumatic injury. It's important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis and to rule out broken bones or other damage that can cause or worsen symptoms.
Your shoulder is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid. A combination of muscles and tendons keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. These tissues are called the rotator cuff. They cover the head of your upper arm bone and attach it to your shoulder blade.
Surgery may be required to resolve some shoulder problems. However, the large majority of patients with shoulder pain will respond to simple treatment methods such as altering activities, rest, exercise, and medication. Certain types of shoulder problems, such as recurring dislocations and some rotator cuff tears, may not benefit from exercise. In these cases, surgery may be recommended fairly early. Surgery can involve arthroscopy to remove scar tissue or repair torn tissues, or traditional open procedures for larger reconstructions or shoulder replacement.