Shoulder pain is a common complaint, affecting a wide range of patients. Gradual degradation of connective tissue, or acute injury of bones, muscles, and ligaments within the joint can cause chronic pain, which can sometimes be debilitating, interfering with all aspects of daily living. Finding out the root cause of the shoulder pain helps determine the type of treatment necessary to help relieve pain and restore mobility and function to the joint.
The orthopedic surgeons at the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence in Los Angeles are highly skilled in the comprehensive treatment of shoulder pain. Our surgeons are experts in the most advanced techniques, from the minimally invasive to the most complex joint reconstruction procedures. They routinely achieve exceptional outcomes for patients with a variety of injuries or chronic conditions of the ball-and-socket joint.
Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint
The shoulder is one of the most sophisticated and complicated joints of the body and offers high mobility, but has a lack of bony stability. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, meaning that the top end of the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into a specialized area of the scapula (shoulder blade). The way the bones are arranged, the shoulder is given great range of motion due to the actions of the surrounding musculature, which move the arm through space. A third bone of the shoulder girdle, called the clavicle, helps frame the shoulder, and connects it to the chest.
A series of four muscle tendons, known collectively as the rotator cuff, surrounds the shoulder girdle, keeping the humerus in its proper place. The rotator cuff, in addition to moving the arm, maintains stability of the glenohumeral (socket) joint of the shoulder. The biceps tendon connects the biceps muscle in our arm to the top of the glenohumeral joint, providing additional stability for movement of the elbow. Wear and tear, or injury to any of the bones, muscles, ligaments, or soft tissue in the shoulder can destabilize the joint and cause shoulder pain.
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Common Causes of Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is classified as either acute (resulting from a specific action or event that occurs to the shoulder) or chronic (occurring gradually over time). An injury to any of the anatomical structures of the shoulder can cause pain in the arm, shoulder, chest, neck, and/or upper back. Common sources of shoulder pain seen by our team of shoulder specialists include:
Acute and Chronic Shoulder Pain Causes
- Rotator cuff tear – an injury that over stresses the muscles and tendons of the shoulder and causes tearing of one or more of the rotator cuff tendons.
- Shoulder instability – this is a recurring condition, also called subluxation, which is when the bones of the glenohumeral joint slip out of alignment and then return to the proper place on their own, causing damage over time.
- Biceps tendon tear – an injury to the tendon connecting the biceps to the shoulder blade, often causing sharp pain in the frontal area of joint and radiating down to the elbow.
- Labral tear – an injury/tear to the ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket
- Shoulder separation – a separation of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, often caused by a specific event that involves a traumatic blow to the top of the shoulder or a fall onto an outstretched hand.
- Impingement (rotator cuff tendonitis) – narrowing of the subacromial space from inflammation or bony changes, resulting in irritation of the rotator cuff tendons, with pain in the upper arm or top of the shoulder that can become chronic over time.
- Osteoarthritis – degeneration of cartilage that surrounds and protects the shoulder joint, causing pain with any movement of joint.
If any of the above conditions are not treated appropriately when they occur acutely, they can become causes of long-term, or chronic pain.
When Is Treatment for Shoulder Pain Recommended?
Even though some people may be able to tolerate chronic conditions of the shoulder that cause pain, over time, the damage to the structures is likely to become worse if ignored and untreated. Acute injuries should also be evaluated and treated, in order to prevent further injury and preserve long-term strength and function of the shoulder. Our orthopedic surgeons recommend that patients seek treatment if an injury or chronic condition causes swelling in the joint, limits the range of motion of the arm or shoulder, or causes pain that persists beyond a few days.
At the Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence, our top priority is to provide exceptional results for our patients within a comfortable environment. Our renowned orthopedic surgeons are experts in using the latest minimally invasive shoulder procedures, as well as non-surgical options, and are dedicated to finding the cause of your shoulder problem and the best ways to provide relief from pain.
Contact a Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgeon
The Shoulder Surgery Center of Excellence is a team of renowned orthopedic surgeons specializing in the comprehensive treatment of shoulder injuries and chronic shoulder joint conditions. If you have specific questions about shoulder treatment, or if you have been experiencing shoulder pain, you can contact us today at (888) 847-0357.
This article from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons provides additional information regarding shoulder pains and problems.
Next, read about shoulder arthroscopy.