What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Each year, Americans make 7.5 million doctor visits related to shoulder/upper arm pain. After neck and back pain, shoulder pain is one of the top reasons patients seek chiropractic care. So, why are shoulder injuries so prevalent?

Though there are many possible explanations that address this question, there’s a simple answer: anatomy. There are essentially three joints that make up the shoulder: 1) scapulothoracic joint, 2) the glenohumeral joint, and 3) the acromioclavicular joint. These joints work simultaneously and in harmony to carry out the many tasks we throw at our upper extremities from swimming to swinging a tennis racket or even reaching up to hang a curtain or change a light bulb. The overall structure of the shoulder favors mobility over stability and as a result, there is a greater chance for injury. So, what can we do to prevent shoulder injuries?

Perhaps the most important strategy is to think before you act; that is, don’t take unnecessary chances such as over-lifting in especially awkward positions. Try asking someone else for help instead. Also, use proper form and stay conditioned. Research shows that a strong core (back and belly) can help prevent shoulder injuries.

Common shoulder conditions include (but are not limited to): inflammation (bursitis and tendinitis), instability (“sloppy” joints), arthritis (bone/cartilage injury/wear), fracture, and nerve injuries. Injuries can be acute (from an obvious cause) or more commonly, they can be chronic from wear and tear and can occur gradually over time (from no obvious, single cause).

It’s important to understand that a shoulder complaint may be the end result of dysfunction throughout the body, just as a knee problem can place added stress on the hip (or vice versa). So in addition to direct treatment of the shoulder, your doctor of chiropractic may identify and treat problems elsewhere in the body (forward head carriage, poor core strength, leg length deficiency, etc.) that likely contribute to your shoulder pain complaint. In order to promote a speedy recovery, your chiropractor may also recommend certain food or vitamins/supplements with the aim of reducing inflammation.