Are you wondering what causes pain in the upper arm and shoulder area? If yes, you should click here for the key things to understand.
My shoulder is killing me, you think to yourself, before your mind runs through all the possible ways you could have injured it. But there was no fall, no heavy gym session, no car accident…so what could be the cause?
Shoulder discomfort without traumatic injury is actually very common. In fact, shoulder pain and injuries are the third-leading musculoskeletal complaint in the US. After spine and knee injuries, shoulder complaints account for 4.5 million doctor’s visits and as much as $3 billion in healthcare costs.
But, other than trauma, what causes pain in the upper arm? Read on to find out more about the ways you can injure your arm and shoulder area.
Common Causes of Shoulder Pain
Each of your shoulders has two joints, making them the most flexible part of your body. This flexibility allows you more range of movement. But overuse, among other things, can lead to pain.
Since around 85 percent of people are right-handed, injuries to the right arm and shoulder are more common than those to the left arm. So we at least know people are tending to injure their dominant arms and the connected muscles. With this in mind, what is causing arm and shoulder pain specifically to be so common? Let’s take a look.
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is one of the most common shoulder issues. Frozen shoulder occurs as a result of inflammation in the lining of the shoulder joint capsule. The capsule becomes thicker and tighter, causing discomfort as there is less space for movement.
Experts don’t know what causes frozen shoulder. But they identify it as progressive pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the shoulder area.
Exercises aimed at expanding the range of motion can help treat frozen shoulder. Numbing medications and corticosteroids can also help. But some patients may need surgery to loosen the joint capsule and allow for more movement.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Bursitis
Rotator cuff tendonitis is the result of irritation or damage to the tendons in the rotator cuff. This is often due to a combination of age-related degeneration and overuse of the shoulder joint.
Activities such as golf, house painting, and carpentry can lead to tendonitis. While playing tennis often causes elbow injuries, the repetitive motions of this sport can also injure the rotator cuff.
Rotator cuff bursitis happens when the bursa (the lining that provides a cushion between the bones and tendons) gets irritated or swollen. This swelling usually happens in response to degeneration in the tendon.
While these rotator cuff issues can be painful, you can help treat them with ice, plenty of rest, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Rotator Cuff Tears
In the same way that a combination of inflammation, degeneration, and overuse can lead to tendonitis, it can also cause rotator cuff tears.
If your shoulder pain is more of a throbbing ache then you may have torn your rotator cuff. If this pain starts to interrupt your sleep then this is a sign that you should seek immediate medical treatment.
Sports doctors will recommend different treatments for swimmer’s shoulder depending on the exact cause of the injury. These treatments can include rest, ice, and compression, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and surgery.
There’s no clear and identifiable cause for calcific tendonitis, but it can cause a lot of pain. The condition occurs as the result of small calcium deposits build up in the muscles and tendons around the shoulder. These calcium deposits are visible on an X-ray making this condition easy to identify.
Common treatments for calcific tendonitis are anti-inflammatory drugs or injections. Although, many cases resolve themselves over time without medical intervention.
Seeking Relief for Arm and Shoulder Pain
Now we know the main causes of injuries to the upper arm and shoulder area, but what helps shoulder pain?
If there’s no evidence of traumatic injury, doctors will often tell their patients to wait and see if the issue resolves itself with rest. But if the pain starts to interrupt your sleep then this is a sign that the problem could be significant enough to warrant medical intervention.
Depending on the specific cause of the problem, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs may be enough. Physiotherapy and specific exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder can help some patients. And, in some cases, doctors will recommend surgery.
But there are also several effective alternatives to pain medication and surgery for shoulder pain. These include supplements, stem cell therapy, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
PRP injections involve injecting platelets from the patient’s blood into the injured area as a way to speed up the body’s healing process. As such, if you’re interested in treating your shoulder pain without surgery then this could be an effective option.
Understanding What Causes Pain in the Upper Arm
When it comes to understanding what causes pain in the upper arm, it’s clear that there are many different types of injuries and underlying issues, some of which still aren’t known.
But, with new and emerging treatment options such as PRP injections, it’s becoming easier to treat even the most severe forms of upper arm pain.
For more information, feel free to contact us today.