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What could be the problem, and what can I do about it? Answered by Thayer White, M.
Shoulder pain - Better Health Channel
There are certainly other possible causes, but these are the most common. None of these is an emergency, so as long as there's no obvious injury and the pain doesn't extend beyond your elbow, it's perfectly safe to try home treatment before you call a doctor. If your pain gets better after a few days of home treatment, that may be all you need.
If it's still bothering you after a week — especially if it's keeping you from your normal activities — or if it gets better and then comes right back, it's probably time to see a doctor. A doctor can usually discover what's causing your pain by examining you and asking a few simple questions about your work, daily routines, past injuries and activities that make the shoulder hurt.
The vast majority of shoulder pain will improve with some fairly simple steps — often as simple as the three home-care steps mentioned earlier.
Common Shoulder Injuries & Conditions
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor might also prescribe additional therapies, such as:. Very few causes of shoulder pain ever require surgery, but there are a few, such as large rotator cuff tears, that do. Surgery isn't generally helpful for the small rotator cuff tears that occur with normal use over time, but large tears caused by traumatic injuries can definitely benefit from surgical repair. Even being overweight or smoking can play a role. Some of these factors fall within your control, while others are beyond it.
Genes: Certain shoulder problems seem to run in families.
Rotator cuff injuries are more likely to occur not only in siblings, but also in cousins and other more distant relatives. The tendency to injury may be due at least in part to inherited anatomical differences in the shoulder joint. Arthritis also has a genetic component.
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Inherited characteristics in the shape of the acromion a bony projection on the end of the shoulder blade and the glenoid cavity the socket in the shoulder joint can increase the likelihood of shoulder degeneration and damage. Age: Your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis increases as you age. Years of playing tennis and golf or engaging in other repetitive activities can cause minor injuries that add up over time, eventually leading to a loss of the cartilage that cushions your shoulder joints.
Osteoarthritis and soft tissue conditions, such as rotator cuff injury, shoulder impingement syndrome, and frozen shoulder, are the most common causes of shoulder pain in older adults. Gender: Women are at higher risk for shoulder pain than men. Their smaller size, coupled with generally weaker muscles, leads to greater shoulder instability. In addition, after a woman spends years playing sports or engaging in repetitive motions at work, her shoulder joints begin to loosen, putting her at increased risk for dislocation.
Hormones might play a role in gender-related shoulder differences. Relaxin, the hormone released during pregnancy to ease delivery, does so by relaxing ligaments throughout the body.
For these reasons, women are more likely to suffer injuries when they play sports. However, because men participate in sports more over all, they account for a greater proportion of sportsrelated shoulder injuries. Obesity: Extra weight puts added pressure on the joints, and the heavier you are, the more weight your joints have to bear.
The knees and hips carry most of this force, but shoulders can be affected, too.
Obesity might also contribute to shoulder pain by triggering the release of inflammatory substances. Inflammation activates pain receptors in the area, contributing to shoulder pain. Other medical conditions: People with certain medical disorders are more likely to develop shoulder pain. These disorders include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. In diabetes, chronic high blood sugar leads to connective tissue damage and inflammation in the shoulders, as well as in other parts of the body.
Frozen shoulder and rotator cuff injuries are particularly common in people with diabetes. Another possible culprit is the formation of damaging substances known as advanced glycation end products.
What are the causes?
These substances—which form when blood sugar is high, and sugar molecules attach abnormally to protein or fat—can make tendons stiff and weak. Multiple sclerosis causes nerve damage, which leads to pain, weakness, and reduced function throughout the body, including the shoulders. Fibromyalgia is marked by muscle pain and tenderness at various sites, including the neck and shoulders. And inflammatory forms of arthritis produce inflammation in the joints.
Related A Simple Guide to Shoulder Pain and Other Shoulder Disorders (A Simple Guide to Medical Conditions)
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