Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by athletic activities that involve excessive, repetitive, overhead motion, such as swimming, tennis, pitching, golf and weightlifting. Injuries can also occur during day-to-day activities such as cleaning, doing laundry and gardening. As a result, shoulder pain is a very common complaint for people in their middle-age as their shoulder starts to wear out.
While most people tend to accept that aches and pains are part and parcel of aging, physiotherapists are highly trained to advise you and treat the factors that may actually decrease the rate of wear and tear; or even relieve you of your pain.
Common Shoulder Conditions
Rotator Cuff injuries
The rotator cuff is one of the most important components of the shoulder and is comprised of a group of small muscles that looks after the stability and smoothness of the shoulder joint when lifting your arm overhead. Everytime you lift or begin to move your arm, the rotator cuff muscles switch on and as a result, it is prone to wear and tear due to the amount of repetitive stress that it is put under. Individuals with rotator cuff dysfunction usually benefit from exercises, hands on treatment, postural advice, and sometimes activity modification.
Shoulder bursitis refers to an inflamed shoulder bursa. A bursa is a fluid filled sac that aims to reduce friction between your bones, muscle and tendons. There are several bursas in your shoulder but the most commonly affected is the subacromial bursa. This usually occurs as a result of impingement when lifting the the arm overhead which puts too much pressure on the bursa causing it to get inflammed. Symptoms are gradual onset of pain over weeks or months. The pain is felt on the outside of your shoulder and is aggravated when lying on your affected shoulder or when lifting your arm out to the side in an arch. Treatment involves improving the mechanics of the shoulder to decrease the impingement and may require a corticosteroid injection into the bursa in severe cases.
A dislocated shoulder is a traumatic and painful injury where the humerus (ball) pops out of the shoulder joint (socket) causing severe pain and damage to various ligaments and tendons which hold the shoulder joint in place. A dislocated shoulder requires immediate medical attention and should never be popped back in place by anyone who is not qualified and experienced to do so. A full rehabilitation program is essential to avoid recurrent dislocations in the future.
Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
Frozen shoulder refers to the inflammation and fibrotic adhesions to the joint capsule which results in loss of shoulder mobility and pain. It affects those within the ages of 40-60 years of age although the causes are not commonly understood. A frozen shoulder will go through three phases: a freezing phase which is painful as the patient gradually loses movement in the shoulder; a stiff phase which is often less painful but with most lost of mobility; and a thawing phase where the pain reduce and movement of the shoulder is restored. Physiotherapy treatment for a frozen shoulder depends on what stage you are in, and is tailored to your specific needs. Each stage can last on average 6 to 8 months if left untreated.
Warning Signs of a Shoulder Injury
If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, ask yourself these questions:
Is your shoulder stiff? Can you rotate your arm in all the normal positions?
Does it feel like your shoulder could pop out or slide out of the socket?
Do you lack the strength in your shoulder to carry out your daily activities?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should consult with a physiotherapist from Infinite Health for help in diagnosing and advising the most appropriate treatment for your shoulder.