Why do I have shoulder pain?

Although most people experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives, this does not always indicate arthritis. Your shoulder is made up of various mobile components, so pain in this region could signify an issue with the tendons, muscles, or soft tissue that make up the shoulder joint. Often a problem with your neck or discomfort in this region can lead to pain in the shoulder.

Most of the time, minor concerns that affect the shoulder cause pain that dissipates over time. However, debilitative and chronic shoulder pain is largely due to a severe condition such as arthritis. Typically, shoulder arthritis causes pain on all sides (front, back, and side) of the shoulder.

What specific tests does Dr van Niekerk carry out to check for shoulder pain?

Fortunately, there are several tests that can be ordered to determine the cause of shoulder pain. For example, Dr van Niekerk may order an ultrasound, MRI, or X-ray to determine the extent of damage done to tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone that make up the joint.

What causes shoulder pain?

The primary reason for shoulder pain is the entrapment of the rotator cuff tendons beneath the shoulder’s bony region, a condition known as bursitis or rotator cuff tendinitis.

Typical reasons for shoulder pain include the following:

  • Shoulder instability causes the ball of the shoulder’s socket to pop out suddenly. As a result, it is typical for the patient to develop shoulder pain.
  • Bone spurs located in the shoulder decrease the space inside the shoulder joint. Therefore, the presence of bone spurs in this space leads to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons.
  • Bursitis develops due to inflammation of the bursa, a sac full of liquid that safeguards the joint and facilitates the joint’s movement.
  • A frozen shoulder leads to a persistently dull or aching pain in the shoulder. The pain from a frozen shoulder is intense from the onset of the condition but worsens when you move or lift your arm.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis affecting the shoulder arises from the immune system’s attack on the shoulder’s cartilage and ligaments. Painful bone friction occurs when the immune system degenerates healthy tissue in the joint.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica leads to pain and stiffness in the shoulder muscles, which develops over several days or weeks. Pain in the hips and neck accompanies the condition.
  • Rotator cuff tears develop due to a tear in the muscles and tendons that mobilise the shoulder.

How do you treat shoulder pain?

Depending on the cause of the shoulder pain, Dr van Niekerk will tailor his treatment plans accordingly. Normally, a minimally invasive surgical technique called arthroscopic shoulder surgery is done to extract scar tissue or seal a tear. For shoulder impingement, Dr van Niekerk debrides or cleans tendons that have been damaged, or he dilates the space underneath the acromion. By doing this, he reduces the pressure placed on the joint.

Conservative treatments involve taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that provide temporary pain relief. However, it is best advised not to take anti-inflammatories for over two weeks. In the event you find you are still in pain; in that case, you need to seek treatment immediately. Furthermore, ice or heat therapy can also help relieve minor shoulder pain.

With several treatment options available, ranging from surgical to conservative, you no longer have to deal with the lethargy, pain, and loneliness that shoulder pain as a result of arthritis brings. But unfortunately, not only arthritis but shoulder pain, in general, can be persistent, affecting your quality of life and preventing you from enjoying life to the fullest. Fortunately, Dr van Niekerk can individualise and adapt your treatment plan accordingly.