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Shoulder pain – causes, symptoms, treatment – What’s useful to know?

Arm pain is an ailment that can make it difficult to perform daily activities and affect your quality of life. Although it can have various causes, in most cases it is associated with damage to muscles, tendons or joints. In this article, we’ll outline the most common causes of arm pain, the symptoms that may accompany the condition, and treatments to help you relieve pain and restore the full functionality of your arm.

Arm pain

Causes of shoulder pain – What can be the cause of shoulder pain?

Pain in the arms can affect different parts, such as joints, muscles and other structures around them. It usually manifests as strong, throbbing pain and stiffness in the arm and shoulder. The most common causes of pain in the shoulder joint are degenerative diseases, inflammation of the muscles of the arm, carpal tunnel syndrome caused by inflammation of the joint capsule, damage to the tendon of the biceps muscle of the arm or rotator cuff, as well as mechanical injuries caused by pulling the arm.

If mobility in the joint is significantly limited and there is stiffness, this may indicate the so-called. “Shoulder frozen”. Other causes of pain in the arm are joint diseases such as psoriatic arthritis, gout, and lung top tumors, called Pancoasts. Symptoms of radiating pain to the upper limb, such as pain in the left arm, wrist and hand, may be caused by cervical spine herniated disc or recent myocardial infarction.

Arm pain – diagnostics

For accurate diagnosis of shoulder pain problems, specialists conduct precise interviews with patients. Based on the information collected, doctors can refer patients for appropriate diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging.

If you experience arm pain after an injury, such as a fall, an immediate radiological examination may be necessary. For patients who experience nocturnal shoulder pain, armpit pain, or rushing arm bone pain, more complicated diagnostic tests, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, may be required to rule out cancer.

Additionally, in case of suspected degenerative diseases or gout, the doctor may recommend laboratory tests such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate, CRP, or uric acid. In case of suspicion of shoulder muscle problems, doctors may conduct special clinical tests to get a more detailed diagnosis.

Arm pain – symptoms

Arm pain – symptoms

When pain arises as a result of an injury, it is important to accurately determine the moment when the injury occurred through detailed interviews with the patient. Thanks to this, it is possible to narrow down the possible causes of pain in the shoulder area. In the case of injuries caused by accidents, it is often necessary to perform an X-ray examination of this area. However, in the case of unusual symptoms, such as pain at certain times (usually at night) or pain in the arm bone, the doctor may refer the patient for further diagnostics, for example computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

For degenerative diseases, laboratory tests such as uric acid, CRP and ESR tests are recommended. For more serious diseases of the shoulder muscles, specialized tests are possible, but it is best to consult a doctor for recommendations.

Arm pain – pharmacological and surgical treatment

Depending on the cause and type of disease, drug treatment may be used. For pain in the arm, forearm, arm or shoulder, local glucocorticoid injections may be necessary to reduce pain. Injections of platelet-rich plasma or hyaluronic acid may also be used to regenerate tissues. In case of severe pain, the doctor may prescribe painkillers, but it should be remembered that their long-term use should be consulted with a doctor.

For more serious conditions, such as labrum injury, recurrent shoulder dislocation, rotator cuff inflammation or degradation of the lining of the joint, surgical treatment may be necessary. Arthroscopic procedures are the most commonly performed surgical procedures, and arthroscopic capsulolimentotomy can be used for frozen shoulder, when there is acute pain in the shoulder joint and the arm cannot be raised.

Home remedies for shoulder pain – exercises

There are different ways to relieve shoulder pain at home. If indicated, mud slices can be used, which bring relief. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory ointments also help, and in cases of severe pain, non-steroidal drugs in tablets are an effective solution.

In addition, it is worth doing exercises aimed at restoring the lost range of motion and muscle balance. One of such exercises is to stand in strides and raise the pole above the head, with tension of the abdominal muscles. These exercises should be performed in several series, 10-15 repetitions each, to help achieve the appropriate range of motion. You can also modify this exercise by moving the pole behind your head and bending your upper limbs at the elbow joints.

Arm diseases

The obvious cause of shoulder pain is mechanical trauma or injury, but these are not the only causes. Pain can also be affected by various diseases, which are often dependent on our lifestyle.

People who spend a lot of time in front of the computer or perform repetitive activities often suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which is quite common. A less common, but equally troublesome disease is the syndrome of the sub-shoulder tunnel, where pain occurs when lifting the hand above the shoulders. People who repeat this movement frequently are particularly vulnerable to this condition.

Similar pain symptoms may indicate damage to the rotator cuff in the shoulder joint or degenerative changes, which most often affect people over 50 years of age. A characteristic symptom here is constant pain in the arm, which over time leads to a limitation of its mobility.

Arm pain can also result from inflammation of the hood, bi- and triceps or deltoid muscles. In this case, stiffness in the arm after waking up is a typical symptom, and fever or subfebrile condition may also be accompanied.

Another reason for pain in the arm may be bursitis, which causes very severe shoulder pain, especially at night.

One of the common diseases of the arm is the so-called frozen arm, where the pain occurs without mechanical injury and gradually intensifies, which hinders everyday activities and leads to pain even at rest.

Back problems, especially in the cervical spine, are a less obvious cause of shoulder pain. People who lead a sedentary lifestyle and work long at the computer are particularly vulnerable to the development of vertebral degeneration and pressure on the nerves that go to the muscles of the arm. This can lead to numbness and recurrent pains.

Arm pain – rehabilitation

Arm pain – rehabilitation

Rehabilitation may be an essential part of the fight against pain. The most common forms include:

  1. Physical therapy – is a therapy using different types of energy, such as electric current, ultrasonic waves, laser light, to reduce pain, inflammation and speed up the healing process.
  2. Exercise – Exercise and stretching can help increase the range of motion and strength of the muscles of the arm, which can reduce pain and improve function.
  3. Massage – A professional massage can help relax tense muscles, reduce pain and increase range of motion.
  4. Cryotherapy – cold treatment can help reduce pain and swelling.
  5. Manual therapy – A manual therapist can help you relax your muscles, improve your range of motion, and reduce pain.
  6. Acupuncture therapy – Acupuncture is a method that involves inserting thin needles into the skin to reduce pain and stress.
  7. Medications – In some cases, painkillers or anti-inflammatories may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce pain and inflammation.