Literatus: Shoulder pain and what to do with it


WE TEND to think that the shoulders are simply constructed. However, these are made up of more than muscles or bones. These also contain cartilages and tendons. Moreover, the complexity of the connections between bones and muscles through the tendons, and the wear and tear of the cartilages through years of movement, can lead to shoulder problems.

In essence, if your shoulders do not ache when you raise your elbows to the side and at shoulder level, then you are the luckiest among us. Even the physically fit can have shoulder problems simply from physical wear and tear.

Diseases associated with shoulder problems include arthritis (osteoarthritis), bursitis, tendinitis, dislocation, fracture and torn muscles. Arthritis results from the breaking down of the arm bone cartilage, which starts usually in middle age and often due to wear and tear.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs between your shoulder bones. Suspect bursitis if simple motions, such as combing your hair or dressing, hurt your shoulders. Tendons, especially those that connect the rotator cuff with the biceps, tend to inflame because of wear and tear from years of movements.

If you are active physically, especially in competitive sports, tendinitis can bother your shoulders later on. In sports like baseball, tennis and swimming, strong pain due to acute tendinitis often occurs. Therefore, overuse can cause shoulder problems.

However, shoulder aches can imply other conditions.

Dr. Tyler Wheeler of WebMD said that when shoulder pains are accompanied with chest tightness or breathing difficulty, a heart attack might be coming. Thus, an emergency trip to the hospital is encouraged. However, do not drive the car yourself. Ask someone else to do so.

Different diagnostic procedures have different roles in looking at your shoulders. X-rays tend to be good in showing bone injuries. Computed tomography (CT) scans provide a more detailed view of the structures in your shoulders. Meanwhile, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasonography can show tissue damage. These are the non-invasive procedures. The invasive ones include arthroscopy (inserting a minute tube with a camera into your shoulders).

For treatment, Wheeler recommended rest, physical therapy and pharmacotherapy. Surgery is a last recourse and only in severe conditions.


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