Shoulder pain

Causes | Diagnosis | Treatment

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body.  It moves the shoulder both forward and backward and allows the arm to move in a circular motion as well as upward away from the body.  When the shoulder is injured or something goes wrong with the shoulder joint, it hampers a person’s ability to move freely and can cause a high level of pain and discomfort.


What Causes Shoulder Pain

There are a number of conditions that can cause shoulder pain, the most common of which is rotator cuff tendinitis.  Shoulder pain can be caused by an injury, either directly to the shoulder or to the neck or bicep causing referred pain.  Other common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Tendinitis (swelling of the tendons)
  • Arthritis including osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis (swelling of the bursa sacs or lack of fluid in the bursa sac)
  • Torn cartilage
  • Torn rotator cuff muscle or muscles
  • Pinched nerves
  • Fractures / broken bones (collar bone/clavicle, shoulder, arm)
  • Overuse of the area (common with overhead athletes such as pitchers, swimmers, etc.)
  • Separated shoulder
  • Dislocated shoulder


Diagnosing Shoulder Pain

Proper diagnosis is essential for the successful treatment and recovery of the patient.  After collecting and reviewing the patient’s medical history, a physical examination will be done to check symptoms, determine shoulder flexibility, tenderness, and range of motion.  An X-ray, CT, diagnostic ultrasound or MRI may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis as well as rule out other underlying conditions.

Treating Shoulder Pain

Most minor shoulder pain can be treated conservatively.  However, shoulder pain that is caused by an injury and is accompanied by shoulder deformity, inability to move, intense pain, or swelling may require more extensive care.  Our experts at SCU Health System will provide accurate diagnosis of your shoulder pain and customize a treatment plan that is right for you.  At SCU we believe in treating our patients with the most minimally invasive option possible including:


  • Acupuncture – clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in treating shoulder pain associated with arthritic conditions as well as tendinitis, and may stimulate healing and decrease pain from injuries.
  • Chiropractic Care – chiropractic techniques and manipulation to affected joints can increase mobility and relieve pain.  Therapeutic exercise is almost always prescribed.
  • Physical Therapy Modalities/Procedures – these may include cold laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic exercise.
  • Sports Medicine – our Sports Medicine team treats patients of any level of fitness and works with them to develop a customized treatment plan whether the joint pain is due to an injury or post-operative rehabilitation.
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) – research has shown that PRP therapy improves clinical outcomes and decreases further degeneration in patients suffering with osteoarthritis and other joint diseases or injuries.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – studies have shown that stem cell therapy can relieve pain from osteoarthritis, chronic tendonitis, as well as rotator cuff tears and other shoulder conditions.
  • Whole-Person Assessment – in some complex cases, factors such as diet, lifestyle, sleep, stress, insulin-sensitivity, gene-environment interactions, and hormone levels may interfere with a person’s ability to heal, and may need to be addressed.

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