Shoulder pain is something we see often in the office and a common reason for someone to seek out care. There are a variety of reasons that can lead to shoulder pain so it’s important to get the care you need sooner rather than later. Otherwise, a nasty cycle can start to develop – a person with minor shoulder pain avoids using the shoulder, tissues around the area go into “protective” mode and tighten up, now when trying to use it more severe pain is felt so the shoulder is used less, and so on.
Common Types of Pain
The majority of shoulder conditions can be placed in the nociceptive somatic pain category and respond very well to conservative treatment. This is more of an achy/sharp/dull type of pain that’s pretty constant, well localized and can point to it, movement tends to make it worse and rest better. This is pain coming from the soft tissues such as; muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and joints.
The other type of pain we see most commonly is neuropathic pain, or nerve pain. This feels more like pins and needles, burning, radiating pain, or electrical sensations. An example of this would be something like a disc herniation or sciatica. This type of pain also responds very well to conservative care but the treatment and exercises will be a bit different.
Knowing the difference between these two types of pain is important for the patient and the doctor so there’s better communication, the right diagnosis is made, and the right treatment is given for the condition!
Most Common Reason For Shoulder Pain
Repetitive overhead activity and reaching behind the back are BIG reasons for shoulder pain. Think swimmers, overhead throwers, weightlifters, tennis players, carpenters, electricians, and painters. Sleeping with the arm overhead can also be a contributing factor. Most commonly, this leads to shoulder impingement syndrome where there is reduced space between the acromion bone (on top of the shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone) and pinching starts to occur on the tissues inside that space. This can lead to other issues we’ll talk about very soon!