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How to Shoulder On Through Your Pain

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Sep 19, 2016 2:12:22 PM

Maybe it happened after chopping wood while preparing for a wiener roast. Maybe it happened after pulling up your grandchild for a hug. Maybe it happened while tossing a football around the backyard.

No matter, shoulder injuries are painful – and can be difficult to heal.

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Two bones and a complex array of muscles and ligaments make up the shoulder areas. While generally robust parts of the body, your shoulders are susceptible to injury, inflammation or degeneration of tissue due to aging.

Athletes participating in contact sports are more prone to shoulder injuries. Tears and separations are especially painful. However, older adults who suffer from arthritis or falls can suffer from equally agonizing shoulder issues.

So what causes pain in the shoulder, and what can you do about it?

Strains

This happens mostly to younger people and athletes, whose bodies are still growing. They are throwing balls, tackling or using their shoulders in competition – and stretching the muscles and ligaments beyond normal limits. Older people (aka Weekend Warriors) also test their shoulder limits and stretch it beyond capacity.

Usually, rest and ice takes care of strains. Physical therapy might be in order to restore flexibility.

Dislocation

This happens when the two bones and the joint areas are suddenly moved out of alignment due to an accident or hard contact. The ligaments no longer hold the bones together, which means you need immediate attention by a doctor.

For the shoulder to heal properly, the healthcare provider must move the bones and surrounding tissue “back into place” by gently pulling on it.

Rest promotes healing and ice applied to the injured area help reduce swelling.

Tears

Four muscles are connected to the bones by tendons, which are often called the Rotator Cuff area. Sometimes, these tendons are torn by repetitive motion (such as pitching), extreme pressure (such as lifting a heavy object) or a fall.

Besides tenderness in the shoulder, you have trouble lifting your arm. You also might feel pressure or pain when touched on the shoulder or laying down.

Rest, ice, compression and elevation helps it heal. However, surgery might be necessary to reattach the tendons.

Frozen Shoulder

For people with certain medical conditions, healing after a minor shoulder injury is more difficult. Scar tissue builds up in the shoulder, which reduces flexibility and makes it painful and almost immobile. This happens most often to adults between 40 and 60 years old, especially those who suffer from diabetes and thyroid or heart disease.

Usually, physical therapy, ibuprofen and steroid injections help patients recover.

Arthritis

Generally caused by overuse and age, the shoulder can be susceptible to osteoarthritis. The cartilage that lines the bones of the shoulder are worn out and the joints become inflamed.

Rest, medication and cortisone shots are helpful. In some cases, surgery is needed to replace the shoulder joint.

As a general rule, rest is the best medicine at first sign of shoulder pain. Consult your primary care physician or the Johnson Memorial Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists if the pain persists and disrupts your quality of life. 

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Topics: Orthopedic, Sports Medicine