Our shoulders are some of the most versatile, hard-working areas of our body – constantly moving, adjusting and taking our arms to wherever we need them to go.
Our shoulder is actually a cluster of several joints which, combined with a range of tendons and muscles, allow our arms to move in just about every direction possible. The top of our arm bones fit into a rounded socket, called the glenoid, in our shoulder blades. Those tendons and muscles (collectively known as the rotator cuff) keep our arm bones centred in the shoulder socket.
Given how complicated the structure of our shoulders are – and how hard they work – it’s no surprise that shoulder pain is an issue for so many people. It’s estimated that about one in 10 people experience shoulder pain at some time in their lives, either over a short or long-term period.
We’ve put together some of the most common causes of shoulder pain, to help you work out what might be causing yours.
This is a painful condition that affects our joints. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion between tendons, joints, bones, and muscles and we each have about 150 in our bodies. When these sacs become inflamed it is called bursitis. Bursitis is common in our shoulders and its symptoms include pain in the shoulder, particularly when moving our arms.
Our tendons are connective tissues that attach our bones to our muscles. When these tissues become inflamed, the condition is called tendonitis. Symptoms generally include a general pain and some swelling to the area. Tendonitis is generally from overuse, and it usually occurs in our shoulders, wrists, knees, shins and heels.
As we age, our tendons change and become more prone to tearing. This can happen from sudden injury or due to a long-term overuse or simple wear and tear. Tears can be partial or complete, where the whole tendon becomes unattached to the bone. The most common of these injuries are rotator cuff or bicep tendon injuries.
Shoulder impingement happens when your shoulder’s rotator cuff and/or bursa become trapped and compressed. It happens most often when we’re lifting our arms above our heads repeatedly – for example during swimming or tennis. It can be very painful and can cause shoulder bursitis or a structural injury to your rotator cuff tendons
Shoulder instability occurs when the joints that surround the shoulder don’t work to hold the ball within its socket. A loose joint can allow the arm to slide out of place, partially or completely (shoulder dislocation). Shoulder instability can be caused by an injury, or can happen when a person naturally has loose shoulder joints.
Arthritis is damage to the cartilage in our joints. In our shoulders, the cartilage can start wearing down on the ball or socket sides of the joint. The most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain. This becomes worse after activity and will progressively worsen over time. Pain can also fluctuate with the weather.
We’ve listed some of the most common causes of shoulder pain above, but there can be other conditions that can cause the issue. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain either as an ongoing or short-term issue, it’s worth contacting a physiotherapist to get expert advice and ongoing support.
Southport Central Physio offers expert assistance to diagnose the cause of your pain and treat it appropriately. Please contact us on (07) 5571 2222 to make an appointment.