The Shoulder & Rotator Cuff
The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. That extreme mobility comes at a price and that price is instability. The reason we have so much mobility is that there is very little direct attachment to adjacent bone structure. The joint is often compared to a gold ball sitting on a golf tee. The shoulder is held in the center of the joint by the actions of the many ligaments and muscles that pull in all directions around the joint. If any of these muscles of the rotator cuff become dominant over the others you will change the movements and the stability of the shoulder often leading to injury.
Cause of Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain can range from a mild annoyance to a complete inability to move the shoulder due to pain. Mild shoulder pain following over-use injury is often caused by swelling and inflammation of the muscles, tendons or joint itself. This is referred to as tendonitis or bursitis and will often go away on its own in a few days. Pain that lasts past a few days is something that should be evaluated by your Chiropractor. Lasting pain or more severe pain can indicate more serious conditions such as rotator cuff syndrome.
Rotator Cuff Injury and Pain
Rotator cuff syndrome is caused by inflammation, swelling, or even tears in the muscles and or tendons in the rotator cuff. The most common tendon injured in rotator cuff syndrome is the supraspinatus tendon. The supraspinatus tendon is on the top of the shoulder and is located between two bones. Whenever you raise your arm to the side and up to your ear, the supraspinatus tendon can be pinched between the two bones. Any muscular imbalances between the upper chest and the upper back can place the supraspinatus tendon in a position where it is even more likely to be pinched. Muscular imbalances between the chest and upper back are common because many people have poor posture and tend to let the shoulders sag forward. Rotator cuff syndrome causes shoulder pain in the front and side of the shoulder, and the pain is often worse at night. Lifting the arm to the side, especially if you are holding anything, is very painful. Any activity that involves a lot of overhead arm motion, such as swimming, throwing, or even sleeping with your arm above your head, can cause rotator cuff syndrome.
Rotator cuff syndrome can lead to other shoulder problems if it is not treated quickly and effectively. Many people with rotator cuff syndrome will stop using the shoulder because it is too painful. This can actually lead a condition called frozen shoulder. A frozen shoulder is caused by adhesions that develop between the tendons and ligaments. These adhesions actually cause the structures to become stuck together, and this can severely limit shoulder motion. Another complication of rotator cuff syndrome is degenerative changes in the shoulder. If the rotator cuff is injured and not rehabilitated properly, years later the shoulder can develop calcium deposits in the tendons or osteoarthritis in the joint itself.
Shoulder Pain and Chiropractic
To minimize complications from your shoulder injury, you should seek an evaluation if you have shoulder pain that lasts past a few days. Even though there are many causes of shoulder pain, the treatment for most conditions is similar. It is important to keep the shoulder moving to avoid the complication of frozen shoulder. Your Chiropractic physician will tell you what shoulder motions to emphasize and which ones to avoid to properly facilitate healing of the joint. Therapeutic treatments, such as ultrasound and ice, can be used to remove the inflammation in the shoulder. Removing the inflammation in the joint usually results in a significant decrease in pain. Specific muscle stretching and at home exercises are used to correct any muscular imbalances between the upper back and chest. Correcting these imbalances helps to ensure smooth and even shoulder motion. Most shoulder conditions do not require surgery. However, if your pain does not resolve with these conservative treatments, further testing, such as an MRI, may be required to determine exactly how much shoulder damage is present.
If you would like to determine if chiropractic care can help with your shoulder pain contact Foley Physical Medicine to set up an appointment to speak with Dr. Foley today.