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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Why Does My Shoulder Hurt?

Your shoulder joint is made up of bones, muscles, and tendons. An injury to any area of your shoulder can cause shoulder pain, one of the most common orthopaedic symptoms reported in the United States.

So what’s causing your shoulder pain? Although an exam is required to formally diagnose your injury, there are three common causes of shoulder pain Dr. Joseph typically treats in his Eagle and Summit County clinics.

Pain Caused by Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement, also known as swimmer’s shoulder, is an overuse injury and is responsible for about 44-65% of all reported cases. This is commonly diagnosed in people whose sports or activities include repetitive shoulder movements and continual rotating and raising motions.

Some examples of these sports are:

  • Swimmers

  • Softball players

  • Baseball players

  • Golfers

A shoulder has impinged when the tendons and muscles in the rotator cuff become swollen, causing the outer edge of the shoulder blade to rub and pinch the rotator cuff. Symptoms of shoulder impingement include pain, tenderness, weakness, and fatigue (usually near the top of the shoulder). These symptoms are often reported while patients:

  • Extend their arms

  • Reach backward

  • Lower or lift their arms

  • Are at rest

  • Lay on the impacted shoulder

Oftentimes, shoulder bursitis can develop along with impingement. Surgery is rarely needed to treat shoulder impingement, with Dr. Joseph treating the majority of cases conservatively.

Shoulder Pain and Torn Rotator Cuffs

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles. These muscles keep your shoulder joint in place and help the joint lift and rotate. Your rotator cuff also keeps the upper arm bone (humerus) in the shoulder pocket.

A rotator cuff can tear, usually through overuse, and cause severe shoulder pain. This can be a partial tear or a complete rupture. Painful symptoms of a torn rotator cuff can include:

  • Sharp, intense pain immediately following the injury

  • Progressive shoulder weakness

  • Reduced range of motion

  • Clicking or grinding sensations in the shoulder

  • A steady, dull ache

  • Pain while laying down on the affected shoulder

  • Severe shoulder pain at night

After diagnosing the shoulder injury with a physical exam and imaging, Dr. Joseph will work with the patient to design a treatment plan based on their lifestyle and activity level. While sprains and partial tears to the rotator cuff can be treated nonsurgical, full tears often require surgery. This is especially true if the patient wants to return to a high level of sports activity.

Painful Symptoms of a Shoulder Joint Separation

In a shoulder separation, the ligaments that connect the upper section of the scapula and the collarbone are injured. This shoulder injury is often caused by a fall, sharp twist of the arm, or a forceful impact.

Symptoms of shoulder separation include:

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Deformity

  • Pain

A shoulder separation can easily be confused with a shoulder dislocation, which is when the humerus pops loose from the shoulder socket. However, a separation is damage to the ligament while a dislocation is damage to the bone.

Low-grade shoulder separations can be treated nonsurgically. Conservative treatment methods include:

  • Rest

  • Ice

  • Elevation

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Bracing

  • Physical therapy

If the ligament is severely damaged or the low-grade injury has progressed, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgical intervention.

Painful Shoulder? Contact Team Joseph Today!

If shoulder pain is reducing your quality of life or interfering with your range of motion, contact Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedic & Neurosurgery! As the top shoulder doctor in Vail Valley and Summit County, Dr. Joseph is your go-to orthopaedic physician for diagnosing shoulder pain.

Schedule your appointment today by calling (970) 476-7220 or by completing our online consultation request form.

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