Is there pain in your shoulder when you reach for something on the top shelf of the cabinet? Does pain wake you when you sleep on your side? Has your shoulder “stiffened” so that you don’t have the same range of motion you used to have?
If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you should see a physician to find out what is causing your pain. Although shoulder surgery is a treatment option for shoulder conditions, it is often only recommended after all other nonsurgical treatments have been tried. “I see plenty of sports-related injuries to the shoulder, often as a result of repetitive motions related to the sport, or work-related injuries when the person’s job requires a repetitive motion that affects the shoulder,” says Augustine Conduah, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. When the shoulder first becomes painful, many people will limit the use of the arm and shoulder, increasing the stiffness of the joint and limiting motion. Listen in as Dr. Conduah explains a rotator cuff injury.
To reduce the risk of developing a stiff shoulder or of further injuring your shoulder, follow these suggestions:
If the shoulder pain is not severe, is not accompanied by weakness in the arm and is not the result of a direct trauma to the shoulder, it is safe to treat it at home with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen, ice and rest, says Chris Harastzi, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon.
“If the pain worsens or does not improve in two weeks, see a physician to find out what is causing the pain,” he suggests. In most cases, the initial treatment for a painful shoulder is a combination of anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, says Maurice Jove, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. Oral steroids and/or cortisone injections into the shoulder bursa will likely be used in more severe or chronic shoulder pain to reduce inflammation and pain. He adds, “Return to your treating physician if the pain or function loss persists after several days as you may have a more significant problem.”
“If pain persists after other nonsurgical treatments, arthroscopic surgery to diagnose the underlying problem and treat it is an option,” says Robert E. Karsch, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery for shoulder pain is not common if the problem is diagnosed early. “Eighty-five to 90 percent of my shoulder pain patients don’t have surgery,” he adds.
Although you can’t prevent an accidental fall or other trauma to your shoulder, you can take steps to strengthen your shoulders to prevent injury, says Jeff Traub, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles that keep the ball and socket of the shoulder joint moving properly. “Keeping the rotator cuff strong will reduce the risk of shoulder injury due to repetitive motions,” he explains. Exercises using weights and specific motions to work the smaller muscles in the shoulder should be used in addition to activities that strengthen larger muscles in the arms.
If you think your shoulder problem is serious and you need to see a doctor, call Emory Decatur Hospital at 404.501 TALK (8255).