Shoulder Pain

Conditions / Shoulder Pain
rotator cuff

Understanding Shoulder Anatomy

The term "Rotator cuff" describes a section of small muscles that hold your shoulder together in its shallow socket while larger muscles move it.

Strains and injuries in the rotator cuff are the most common cause of shoulder problems, accounting for 4.5 million doctor visits per year.    However, there are many other structures that may be directly injured or indirectly related to your shoulder injury.  It is important for your practitioner to have deep knowledge of the anatomy and function to find the exact location and cause of your shoulder problem.   

What Are The Causes ?

Less than 10% of rotator cuff problems are the direct result of a sudden injury.  Most are caused by repetitive strains over a long period.

In some cases a sudden injury, from a fall or strenuous activity,  may cause a partial or full tear to the rotator cuff.  These are usually referred to as sprains, tears or ruptures, depending on the severity.   Your chiropractor will assess the severity of the injury using orthopaedic tests to see if this is the case.   

In the vast majority of cases the texture of the muscles or tendons changes more  gradually over time because of repetitive movements.    Pain begins slowly and intermittently at first.   Scar tissue slowly builds up and creates friction, crowding and pinching around the rotator cuff muscles.  These types of injuries are often referred to as rotator cuff syndrome, tendinitis, tendinosis, or impingement. 

People prone to shoulder problems include athletes who play baseball, volleyball, tennis, rowing, weight lifting, swimming and archery.  People with jobs that include carpentry, painting, electrical, drywalling, cleaning windows and washing/waxing cars are also vulnerable. 

Other forms of risk factors for rotator cuff problems include smoking, obesity, high cholesterol and prior cortisone injection.  

shoulder pain
An illustration of inflamed tendon in a shoulder.

What does it feel like?

Patients who have suffered an acute rotator cuff injury often report a "tearing" or "snapping" sound and sensation that is followed by severe pain and weakness.

Most chronic strains start silently with symptoms slowly becoming more evident as the tear progresses. Pain is usually found in the front and outside of your shoulder but can also sometimes radiate down your arm.

Symptoms are usually aggravated by overhead activity and may progress to the point that you have difficulty raising your arm overhead. Pain is typically made worse at night, especially when you lie on the impacted area of your shoulder. Be sure to tell us if you suffer from significant neck pain, shortness of breath, chest pain or chest pressure.

How can you Reduce Rotator Cuff Pain?

Help your shoulders with Active Release Techniques?

Active Release Techniques (ART) is a system of techniques to isolate and treat problems in the rotator cuff.  A physician proficient in ART can get excellent results, sometimes in one visit.   

Chiropractic adjustments improve the function of the joints of the shoulder and spine.  Adjustments improve the behaviour, movement and coordination of the muscles of the shoulder, helping to prevent problems and helping you heal faster.   

Class 4 Laser therapy helps the shoulder heal faster using a technology called photobiomodulation.  This gives the muscle tissues more energy to heal and decreases the pain.  

In the meantime, here are ways to protect your injured shoulder:

  • Be sure to avoid painful overhead activity or carrying heavy objects.
  • Try not to sleep on your irritated side, with your arm outstretched overhead.
  • Avoid small repetitive movements with the shoulder. 
  • Avoid chemical stress such as alcohol, vaping, caffeine and fast food.
  • Relax, you will be in good hands when you come in.

An illustration of the muscles causing shoulder pain.

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