3 Leading Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain often seems innocent enough — a twinge here and there; nothing too bad. Until it is. If you let shoulder pain go untreated, those mild throes will progress from a painful inconvenience to a full-out injury that renders your arm useless. 

Many people might first think to see an orthopedic doctor to discuss surgery for a shoulder injury, but an expert chiropractor can intervene with less invasive options before resorting to surgery. 

Chiropractors specialize in whole-body health, so you can rest assured that Dr. Tony Tropea, our expert chiropractor at Tropea Chiropractic in Sunnyvale, California, will find and treat the root cause of your shoulder pain.

Dr. Tropea encourages his patients to learn the signs and symptoms of shoulder injuries, so they can stop an injury from worsening and get rid of pain quickly. 

3 leading causes of shoulder pain

Though there are many causes of shoulder pain, the following three constitute some of the most common that Dr. Tropea sees among his patients. 

1. Rotator cuff tears

Your rotator cuff is a delicate and essential group of soft tissues that hold your upper arm in its socket. Each rotator cuff comprises four muscles and many tendons, and a healthy rotator cuff supports the full range of motion your shoulder should have. Because of their incredible mobility, your shoulders — particularly your rotator cuffs — are especially prone to injury. 

You can partially or completely tear the tendons in your rotator cuff during an acute injury, but in most cases, rotator cuff tears develop over time as a result of repetitive use.

An acute injury is easy to recognize because you’ll feel sudden, intense pain, but gradual overuse damage typically begins with mild pain that can be ignored. This pain will intensify until you can’t properly use your arm, and you might even have pain at rest.

2. Tendonitis and impingement 

Even if you haven’t suffered a rotator cuff tear, your rotator cuff can still cause shoulder pain due to inflammatory conditions, such as tendonitis and shoulder impingement. A shoulder impingement occurs when your rotator cuff tendons rub against your shoulder blade, which causes sharp pain and discomfort with movement. 

Tendonitis refers to any inflammation of a tendon. In your shoulder, tendonitis can make your arm feel weak or tender, and it can lead to radiating pain throughout your entire arm. Tendonitis may lead to loss of strength and mobility over time.

3. Arthritis in the shoulder

You can develop arthritis in any joint, including your shoulder joints. Osteoarthritis (degenerative) and rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune) can both affect your shoulders and cause pain. Rotator cuff tear arthropathy is another type of arthritis that only occurs in the shoulder.

All three types of shoulder arthritis can lead to persistent pain, although the specific type of pain might vary slightly. Osteoarthritis, for example, is a wear-and-tear condition that causes the cartilage in your joints to erode, making your bones rub together. Osteoarthritis leads to chronic pain that can feel like a grinding sensation.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, causes pain due to inflammation in your joints. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis complain of swelling and a painful feeling of “fullness” in their joints.

Rotator cuff tear arthropathy develops when you continue using your arm while you have an untreated rotator cuff tear. Your weakened tendons allow your arm bone to shift upward and come into contact with your shoulder blade, leading to arthritis. This unique shoulder condition often leads to sharp pain and severe weakness in the arm. 

Should you see a chiropractor for shoulder pain?

Don’t ignore shoulder pain, especially if it’s severe or persistent (or both). If you continue to use a damaged shoulder, you might experience progressive weakness, loss of range of motion, and shoulder instability that makes even the simplest of tasks, such as shopping for groceries, impossible. 

A chiropractor can help you with most types of shoulder pain, although if Dr. Tropea determines you need surgery or orthopedic care, he will refer you out to his network of experts in pain management. 

If you want to get rid of shoulder pain, give Tropea Chiropractic a call at 408-471-6524 or request your appointment online.

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