The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, similar to that of the hip joint. However it is more complex; there are 5 linked bone groups and 4 joints in total allowing the shoulder to perform more complicated movements. This means that the ligaments and muscles are extremely important to produce and control movement from the shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles are commonly involved in shoulder problems; this is a group of 4 muscles located around the shoulder blade and control rotational movements and stability. This is known as impingement syndrome/tendonopathy. The joint can be affected by osteoarthritis or you may have dislocated the joint in an accident and require Physiotherapy. Frozen shoulder and calcification tendonopathy are very painful shoulder conditions and need careful management from a Physiotherapist.
It is common to have referred pain from a shoulder problem, which can often radiate down into the arm. Pain may also be felt at the back around the shoulder blade or in more specific points if one of the smaller joints is affected.
If you have had a fall on to your arm and have a significant loss of movement and pain in your shoulder then please seek medical assessment as you may need an X-Ray.
What can I do to help?
Simple painkillers (paracetamol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, (ibuprofen) are available over the counter and can be very effective for musculoskeletal pain. If you are currently taking any form of medication it is advisable to consult your GP or pharmacist before taking pain relief.
Ice or heat
If your shoulder is painful then applying a heat pack is usually most effective at relieving pain. These can often be bought at your local pharmacy. A covered warm water bottle can be useful otherwise.
Reducing the strain on your shoulders
It is usually best to carry out your normal activities, but try not to overdo it. You need to pace yourself to start with and try to do a bit more each day.
Rest or Exercise?
Aim for a balance between rest and exercise to prevent your shoulder from stiffening up. Try to avoid the movements that are most painful but it’s important to remain generally active even if you have to limit how much you do.
Physiotherapy treatment may consist of mobilisations or soft tissue techniques/stretching. Occasionally taping if required. The strength of the muscles of around your shoulder complex often influences shoulder pain. You will always have a comprehensive exercise plan for home.