Next to headaches and lower back pain, shoulder pain represents one of the most common complaints people develop.
It can be surprising to ask around and find out how many of the people you know have a bad shoulder. Understanding which of the many chronic shoulder pain treatment out there is right for your particular situation can be somewhat more involved, however.
First, let’s consider how the shoulder works, and how it becomes injured.
Basics of Shoulder Pain
The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. It has 16 soft tissue structures as well as 3 bones.
All of these affect stability and movement. As a result of this complexity, some 10% of the population will experience shoulder pain at some point. (About 50% of these will not seek treatment — about 1 in 4 shoulder pain cases resolve on their own inside the first few weeks, thankfully.
Still, this leaves 75% of these cases unresolved.
In general, shoulder complaints fall into four different categories: overuse, arthritis, instability, and fractures. Tumors and infections can also cause pain, but are less common.
Day to day activities often use the shoulder, as do most sports. This constant moving and involvement may produce overuse.
The most common diagnoses, tendonitis and bursitis, are often considered to be the result of overuse. However, the diagnoses refer to inflammatory conditions, where overuse injuries are actually degenerative.
As a result, the commonly prescribed treatments — ice, rest, medication — are not necessarily the best. They cannot regenerate the tissue which has degenerated. Stretching also doesn’t help very much.
The shoulder is complex and full of different structures which all work together, and overuse produces increased friction and “tight” muscles. Over time, if not properly treated, this increased friction can form adhesion and even tendonosis, or tendon degeneration.
Tendon tears are another common type of injury to the shoulder. They may be produced by injuries directly or the result of having an overuse injury and not seeking out treatment.
A small pain slowly becomes a large pain, and eventually leads to a tear of a structure which finally weakened enough. Most commonly torn are the four rotator muscles — the supraspinatus, the subscapularis, the teres minor, and the infraspinatus.
Arthritis most commonly appears as “wear and tear” or osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint. It might be related to a previous injury like infection or tears, which can lead to more chronic pain and reduced movement later.
Another very common cause of shoulder pain is impingement. When the arm is lifted, a shoulder bone might “impinge” on the rotator cuff tendon and bursa. This can be the result of both overuse and arthritis.
Over time, impingement may lead to tearing. Adhesion is often a root cause here — once removed, the impingement is not an issue any longer.
Shoulder instability can be the result of both overuse or trauma. It happens when the upper arm head is forced out of its socket. Repeated dislocation may produce chronic instability or even arthritis.
Both PRP and stem cell therapies can be used as chronic shoulder pain treatment. Compared with normal methods that take weeks or require surgery, these therapies may produce results in as little as a single office visit — with no hospital stay.