The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, and one we usually take for granted. Closing a car door, giving a hug, changing a light bulb or scratching our back seem to require little effort – until we experience shoulder pain. This pain can slow us down and make getting through the day excruciating.
The shoulder is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). The head of the upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in the shoulder blade. Muscles and tendons, called the rotator cuff, keep the arm bone centered in the shoulder socket.
Tendon inflammation or tear, fracture of a bone, arthritis or instability are the most common types of shoulder problems.
Texas Health Resources has a multidisciplinary team of experts including physicians on the medical staff who can quickly and effectively diagnose the source of shoulder pain and provide you with a range of treatment options. Texas Health Resources has shoulder specialists on the medical staff who can perform advanced surgeries, as well as make recommendations about other treatments. Many Texas Health hospitals offer rehabilitation services with advanced equipment and experienced therapists.
Plus, you can try these tips for keeping your shoulders healthy and pain free.
Keep your shoulders healthy and pain free
Try the following tips for keeping shoulder pain and injuries at bay:
- If you have had shoulder pain in the past, use ice and ibuprofen after exercising
- Learn proper exercises to stretch and strengthen your rotator cuff tendons and shoulder muscles. A doctor or physical therapist can help.
- If you are recovering from tendinitis, continue to perform range-of-motion exercises to avoid "frozen shoulder."
- In sports-related activities, learn proper techniques to prevent painful and expensive shoulder problems.
Diagnosing the source of shoulder pain
Tendon inflammation or tear, fracture of a bone, arthritis or instability can all be the source of shoulder pain. Your physician will diagnose your shoulder pain based on the findings of a medical history, physical exam and diagnostic tests. An early and correct diagnosis of shoulder pain is especially important because in some instances, delaying a surgical repair can increase the likelihood that the problem will be more difficult to treat later.
For your medical history, the physician may ask questions such as:
- When did your shoulder first begin to hurt?
- Do you feel the pain continuously or off and on?
- Is the pain in your entire shoulder or one specific location?
- What activities seem to aggravate the shoulder pain?
During the physical exam the physician will manipulate your shoulder to determine how well it moves and where the pain is located.
Depending on the findings of the medical history and physical exam, your physician may use one or more of the following tests to determine the source of your shoulder pain:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Electrical studies
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Texas Health hospitals have some of the most advanced equipment available, such as 64-slice CT scanners, for diagnosing shoulder problems.
Common diagnoses for shoulder pain include:
- Bursitis – inflammation of tissues in the shoulder
- Tendinitis – a wearing down of tendons in the shoulder, can be caused by overuse or arthritis
- Tendon tears
- Instability – dislocation