Years of reaching for the can on the top grocery shelf, shampooing your hair and even reaching for the car radio have begun to take their toll. Many Americans are now affected by shoulder pain, especially middle-aged men and women in their forties, fifties and sixties. Unfortunately, alleviating this pain isn’t as easy as taking a pill every four hours. Instead, depending on the cause, shoulder pain often requires a surgical solution.
Below, Dr. Kevin Mansmann
, orthopedic surgeon at Paoli Hospital
, explores the causes and treatment options for three common culprits of shoulder pain.
Rotator Cuff Tears
One of the most common shoulder injuries is a rotator cuff tear, which is the result of the rubbing and fraying of the cuff tendon after a long period of time. While a traumatic injury can result in a rotator cuff tear, they typically occur as a result years of wear and tear from everyday activities.
“Rotator cuff tears are most commonly associated with active patients, often males, affecting the dominant arm,” says Dr. Mansmann
. “The majority of tears come from years of overuse or moving your arm in a repetitive motion.” Athletic weekend warriors are at a high risk for rotator cuff tears.
Treatment: Partial rotator cuff tears can heal with physical therapy, and often don’t require a surgical solution. However, partial tears with continued pain and full thickness tears often require surgery.
Bursitis and Tendonitis
Bursitis and tendonitis are common conditions that cause swelling around muscles and bones, including the shoulder. Like a rotator cuff tear, they are caused by repetitive arm motions, but are less severe.
Bursitis occurs when a bursa, the fluid-filled sac that acts as a lubricant between a bone and muscle, skin or tendon, becomes inflamed.
Tendonitis is an inflammation of a tendon. Both problems are caused by excessive use, exceeding conditioning, with repeated, minor injury of the affected area, and can lead to a rotator cuff tear if left untreated.
Treatment: Both bursitis and tendonitis are typically easily treatable issues. Resting, stretching before and after an activity, and applying ice to the affected area can often help to alleviate pain. Injections are very helpful if activity modification is unsuccessful.
Conditions like these can happen to anyone, so Dr. Mansmann
offers some advice for those looking to avoid shoulder problems in the future.
“Stay reasonably fit,” he says. “The best prevention of shoulder pain is to participate in an exercise program and avoid weekend warrior activities that exceed your level of conditioning.”
Don’t push through the pain either, says Dr. Mansmann
. Exercising through shoulder pain can make injuries worse, so don’t push through activities, that you may have been able to do easily before, like shoveling snow. Pace yourself.
If you find yourself experiencing shoulder pain regularly, make an appointment with your physician to determine the cause. To find a Main Line Health physician in your area, visit our website