Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the entire body. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint where the head of the humerus bone rests inside the shallow cavity of the scapula, or shoulder blade. This joint is surrounded by a grouping of muscles and tendons that are intended to stabilize and allow movement of the arm with the shoulder blade. Ball and socket joints allow for maximal range of motion in multiple directions.Due to its laxity and mobility, the shoulder joint is less stable and thus, more prone to injury.

There can be many different types of injury to the shoulder; some affecting the tendons, muscles, the bones themselves or a combination of all three. Four common shoulder injuries are Frozen Shoulder, Rotator Cuff Injuries, Impingement Syndrome and Dislocation/Subluxation. The causes, symptoms and treatments for each differ depending on the exact location of the injury and what elements are disturbed.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Frozen shoulder is a common term referring to adhesive capsulitis. Adhesive capsulitis is when movement of the shoulder joint becomes restricted in all directions due to capsular shrinking.Some signs that frozen shoulder may exist include severe pain during movement, muscle spasm, weakness, numbness or a tingling sensation close to the joint itself or radiating to the neck or arm. Although referred to as ‘frozen shoulder’ the shoulder doesn’t actually freeze. Frozen shoulder can be brought on by other shoulder injuries, and with the pain of those, the shoulder is naturally kept immobile and along with any scar tissue that may have developed stiffness will occur. Frozen shoulder can usually be easily diagnosed when symptoms are verbalized and many people with frozen shoulder do, in fact re-gain full mobility and strength of the shoulder with proper assisted therapies.

Dislocation / Subluxation

A dislocation (or luxation) of the shoulder is when the head of the humerus separates from the socket of the shoulder blade; a complete separation. Subluxation refers to only a partial dislocation where the bones in the joint are resting together but out of alignment and this creates much friction during movement. Most people who suffer from a dislocated shoulder can regain full range of motion within four weeks and for some, the injury may hinder full recovery and leave the supporting muscles and tendons weaker and the ligaments permanently stretched and thus, more prone to re-injury.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is made up of four different muscles, which come together and converge to form the rotator cuff tendon. Rotator cuff injuries refer to the strain or damage of the muscle/tendon grouping. This type of shoulder injury can be brought on by trauma (bracing a fall or impact during a motor vehicle accident), repetitive over-head activities or due to the natural effects of aging. The fibres of the muscles and tendons can stretch, tear partially or even completely. Pain and muscle spasm can occur and in turn, limit the range of motion and make simple every-day tasks much more difficult. In turn, weakening of muscles and tendons, the slight adjustments of the humerus can no longer take place creating rigid movement and more pain. Scar tissue can also collect within the joint as a result of tearing, thus creating much discomfort or limitations during movement.

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become impinged, or interrupted when passing through the naturally narrow space within the shoulder joint. Impingement syndrome is also a symptom of other shoulder injuries and can exist due to a dislocation, subluxation, scapula dysfunction, rotator cuff injury or even bone spurs. These conditions reduce the naturally narrow space and thus irritate and inflame the tendons. Movement in any direction may be limited and painful as well.

Depending on the severity, treatments for these conditions vary between active and passive therapies to reconstructive surgeries. Active therapy aims to enhance and restore functional ability and quality of life.

Examples of this include stretching and strengthening exercises as well as low-impact aerobic conditioning. Passive therapy, on the other hand, is treatment given by a Physiotherapist Athletic Therapist or Chiropractor. Examples include soft tissue therapy, massage, heat and cold therapy, ultrasound and electrotherapy. Assisted rehabilitation is essential in all cases to re-build strength and stability of the joint.

Shoulder Pain FAQs

Shoulder pain is often something that keeps people from participating in their typical work, home, and leisure activities. Our chiropractic and physiotherapy team in Vaughn ON is happy to answer our patients’ questions about this common condition and help them regain healthy shoulder function naturally.

Why is my shoulder hurting?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and supported by many connective tissues. A few of the most common diagnoses we see among our patients complaining of shoulder pain include:

  • Bursitis: irritation to and swelling of a fluid filled sac that normally reduces friction between tendons and bones
  • Rotator cuff strain: damage to and/or impingement of the muscle fibers and/or tendons in the muscles stabilizing all sides of your shoulder, ranging in severity from minor strains to full thickness tears
  • Arthritis: joint inflammation and wearing down of the protective cartilage inside the joint
  • Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder): progressive pain and loss of motion in the shoulder following some sort of injury or infection in the shoulder area
  • Dislocation: the joint surfaces move out of place

Shoulder pain can also occur due to referred pain from other areas of the body, including neck pain (such as in the case of whiplash). Common symptoms of these types of shoulder injuries include reduced range of motion, painful arcs of motion, stiffness, tenderness, instability, and the sound or sensation of clicking and popping. 

What are some risk factors for shoulder pain?

Sometimes, the exact cause of your shoulder pain isn’t clear. We often see athletes struggling from an injury in this highly mobile joint due to overuse, an acute trauma, repetitive motion, or improper body mechanics. 

Additionally, you may struggle with shoulder pain due to the combination of many factors, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Stress
  • The presence of other underlying health conditions 
  • Auto accident or slip and fall accident
How can a chiropractor or physical therapist help me manage my shoulder pain?

Chiropractors and physical therapists seek to relieve symptoms and correct underlying imbalances and environmental triggers contributing to your pain. Our drug-free services for shoulder pain treatment and prevention include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Ergonomic training

Together, these services optimize shoulder alignment and mobility, improve tissue healing and local circulation, reduce inflammation and pain, restore strength and stability, and help you learn how to avoid postures and movements contributing to your dysfunction. 

Do You Have Shoulder Pain? Contact our Vaughan Chiropractor Today

Seek drug-free care by working with a chiropractor and physical therapist in Vaughan ON. Contact Synergy Rehab today at (905) 856-4174!