Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is something most of us experience once or twice during our lifetimes. Most cases of shoulder pain do not indicate a serious underlying condition. Best of all, it can often be managed quite well until it resolves.

Are you suffering from unexplained shoulder pain? Are you looking for a pain specialist in London? If so, feel free to reach out to my office and schedule an appointment. I would be more than happy to help you get to the root cause of your shoulder pain. In the meantime, let us discuss four possible causes that I see fairly regularly.

1. Arthritis

As an arthritis specialist, I have seen many cases of arthritic shoulders causing significant pain and discomfort. Three different forms of arthritis can cause shoulder pain: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.

Although all three forms of arthritis present with similar pain symptoms, the pain each one causes is distinct enough to distinguish it from the others. And of course, there are other symptoms I can look at to determine the type of arthritis present.

2. Cervical Radiculopathy

A condition known as cervical radiculopathy can cause pain that starts in the neck and radiates into the shoulders, arms, and hands. What is cervical radiculopathy? It is simply a pinched nerve. Nerves that get compressed do not send electrical signals to the brain. In turn, the brain sends out pain signals.

Shoulder pain caused by cervical radiculopathy is often misunderstood by patients because of the radiating nature of the pain. The pinched nerve is somewhere in the neck or upper back, yet the pain is felt in the shoulders and arms. It can be quite confusing.

Pinched nerves are normally treated through a combination of physiotherapy, avoiding strenuous activities, and taking oral analgesics to reduce swelling and control pain. In more severe cases, steroid injections may be recommended. I am happy to say that most cases of nerve compression sort themselves out over time.

3. Tendonitis

When a tendon becomes inflamed and painful, we referred to the condition as tendonitis. It is often the result of a tendon injury. Tendonitis is a common source of shoulder pain for athletes and manual labourers. Fortunately, it is a condition that normally resolves with rest, cold compresses, and elevation.

Patients suffering from tendonitis are normally advised to avoid unnecessary heat. That means refraining from hot baths and showers, using heat packs, etc. We normally recommend refraining from alcohol consumption as well. The goal of tendonitis treatment is to allow the body to naturally deal with the swelling and affect tissue repair by itself. Heat and alcohol only interfere with that process.

4. Torn Tendons

Significant pain presenting on the top of the shoulder can be a sign of something more serious, like torn tendons for example. A torn tendon can completely detach from the bone in the most severe cases. Treatment options depend on the severity of the tear. Tears of the rotator cuff tendons are quite common as we get older.

Less serious cases are treated with simple analgesia and physiotherapy. Occasionally people may require a steroid injection to alleviate more severe pain. More serious cases may require surgery to reattach the damaged tendon.

As you can see, there are quite a few causes of shoulder pain. If you are experiencing chronic shoulder pain that doesn’t seem to get any better, please see a doctor right away. I am available if you can get to my office in London. As a rheumatologist and chronic pain doctor, I have the knowledge and expertise to help you figure out exactly what is going on.

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