3 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain in Adults

Handsome young man feeling the pain in shoulder at the gym

Signs and Symptoms That May Indicate it’s Time to Reach Out to a Shoulder Specialist

Dealing with shoulder pain can be extremely difficult, especially for those who live an active lifestyle. Although athletes are most at risk of developing a shoulder injury, no one is immune to being impacted by shoulder pain. It can be caused by injury, disease, overuse, or an age-related issue.

Because the shoulder is such a complex joint, it is much more susceptible to injury and wear, especially in older demographics. According to population survey data published by the National Library of Medicine, upwards of 26% of the population will experience shoulder pain at some point in their life.

To provide some additional insight, we will break down three common causes of shoulder pain. Afterwards, we will provide info on how to get in contact with advanced orthopedic doctors near you in the Wichita area.

Rotator Cuff Injury
The group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint is known as the rotator cuff. When those muscles and tendons are torn or become inflamed, it can result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Arm weakness
  • Reduced mobility
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Shoulder pain and aches

Rotator cuff injuries are most commonly experienced by individuals who repeatedly perform motions that rely heavily on their shoulder muscles. Carpenters, painters, and baseball pitchers are at the highest risk of developing this injury.

Those who suspect they have a rotator cuff injury are encouraged to reach out to a shoulder specialist for a thorough examination. Some rotator cuff injuries can be resolved through at home treatments, behavioral modification, and physical therapy.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Statistically, shoulder impingement syndrome is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. When the upper outer edge of the shoulder blade impinges on the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff, it can lead to pain, irritation, and inflammation. If the rotator cuff becomes trapped or pinched within the two bones of the shoulder, this is what’s referred to as impingement syndrome.

Impingement syndrome is far more likely to happen to individuals who are already experiencing swelling or inflammation in the rotator cuff. Athletes who play tennis, volleyball, and baseball are at the highest risk due to the rotational motion of the shoulder that’s made during competition. Shoulder impingement syndrome may also occur in those who have inflamed or irritated bursa.

With cases of shoulder impingement syndrome, it’s important to get an official diagnosis from a shoulder specialist to rule out other conditions such as bone spurs or arthritis. Shoulder impingement syndrome can be treated using at home methods such as ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, physical therapy and targeted steroid injections are required.

Shoulder Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that gets more severe over time. It is one of the most common varieties of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoarthritis affects over 32 million adults in the U.S.

Informally known as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is defined by the breakdown of cartilage on the end of bones, which causes friction and pain during movement. Older adults are at the highest risk of developing osteoarthritis, and it is most likely to occur in the hands, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders. Shoulder osteoarthritis has also been linked to previous injuries and specific occupations that require repetitive shoulder use, such as carpentry.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, one out of three individuals over age 60 suffers from shoulder osteoarthritis. The most common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain and aches
  • Chronic joint stiffness and swelling
  • Reduced range of motion
  • A grinding sensation during movement
  • Audible clicking noises during movement

Because there is no cure for osteoarthritis, shoulder specialists focus on mitigating the symptoms of the disease using a variety of treatments. Depending on the severity of shoulder osteoarthritis, an orthopedic doctor may recommend:

  • Behavioral modification, such as exercise and physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications
  • Supportive walking devices
  • Cortisone injections
  • Lubrication injections
  • Joint replacement surgery

Regarding surgery, it’s important to note that Wichita orthopedic surgeons only recommend this as a last resort. When dealing with shoulder osteoarthritis, orthopedic doctors will try numerous other treatment methods before resorting to surgery.

Contacting Advanced Orthopedic Doctors Near You About Shoulder Pain
Those who are experiencing shoulder pain are encouraged to reach out to a shoulder specialist or orthopedic doctor for an examination and imaging. Generally, orthopedic doctors must collect a medical background, perform an in-person exam, and potentially order an MRI, X-rays, or other tests before they can arrive at a diagnosis.

Once an orthopedic doctor has gotten to the root cause of the shoulder pain, they will provide a treatment plan that is specifically designed for you and your condition. Most shoulder conditions don’t require surgery; however, if surgery is required, your orthopedic doctor will refer you to trusted Wichita orthopedic surgeons who can perform arthroscopic surgery.