Shoulder pain can be crippling and complicate activities of daily living. In severe cases, it can rob a person of their mobility and independence. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damage or to correct underlying issues that contribute to your pain. However, depending on the source of the pain or the nature of the injury, there may be non-surgical options available. Chiropractic treatment for shoulder pain is one of these options.
Types of Shoulder Pain
There are many different conditions and injuries that can cause shoulder pain. Perhaps the most common non-sport or non-injury related cause of back pain today is bad posture. With technology becoming a much more integral part of our daily lives, with jobs requiring that you spend hours a day in front of a computer screen or looking down at your phone, it is no wonder that bad posture is a leading cause of shoulder pain.
You may not even realize how much looking at a screen alters your posture. As you read this, you likely are sitting in a hunched position with your shoulders rolled forward. Whether you are on your phone or computer, you probably are craning forward with your head lower than its usual, erect position. All of these add up to unnatural strain on the muscles, connective tissues, and joints in the back and shoulders. Over time this causes misalignments and compression in your spine and joints. This can further contribute to pain and discomfort as well as increase the likelihood of injury if the issue is not corrected.
Other causes of shoulder pain include:
- Arthritis: Knee and hip arthritis are the most common types but this condition can affect the shoulder as well. Arthritis is a condition of joint inflammation resulting in pain, stiffness, and a breakdown in protective cartilage in the joint. If the condition is severe enough a joint replacement may become necessary.
- Bursitis: Bursitis is a condition in which the bursa, or fluid-filled sac, that sits between the tendon and skin or between the tendon and bone becomes inflamed. This bursa protects the joint and helps make movement more fluid. However, an inflamed bursa can cause significant pain and loss of mobility. This is the most common diagnosis for patients suffering from generalized shoulder pain.
- Calcific Tendonitis: This is a condition in which calcium deposits in the tendons in the rotator cuff – a thick band of connective tissues that attach muscles of the chest and back to the shoulder. Calcification causes swelling of the tendons (tendonitis) and stiffness of the joint. Treatment of calcific tendonitis depends on how severe the symptoms are.
- Frozen Shoulder: Also known as ‘adhesive capsulitis,’ this is a common condition in which the connective tissue surrounding the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder becomes inflamed, causing stiffness of the joint and chronic pain. Physical therapy and stretching are the primary treatments for this condition.
- Tendon Ruptures: This occurs when tendons are overused or experience sudden injury, causing them to rupture. This injury is common among weightlifters.
- Dislocation: A dislocation occurs when the top of the humerus (bone of the upper arm) separates from the scapula (shoulder blade). A dislocation usually resets easily. However, it can cause trauma to surrounding tissues, resulting in tendonitis, tears, and instability.
- Tendonitis: Tendonitis is when tendons become irritated or inflamed. Rotator cuff tendonitis occurs when tendons become compressed under the bony arch of the shoulder. This injury occurs with normal wear and tear or injury but is exceptionally common in athletes such as baseball pitchers.
- Tears: This refers to a lesion, or tear, in the connective tissues or cartilage of a joint. Labral tears occur when cartilage in the shoulder cup tears, usually during a dislocation. SLAP lesions These tears may never fully heal and can cause chronic instability of the joint. A tear in the rotator cuff occurs when tendons separate from bones in the shoulder.
- Instability: Instability is a term used to describe a joint that has become loose either due to a traumatic injury or has developed as a result of other factors. Chronic pain or stiffness may contribute to instability of the shoulder joint.
- Separation: A shoulder separation, also called an AC separation, occurs when the clavicle (collar bone) becomes separated from the acromion, a bony projection on the shoulder blade. This type of injury is often mistaken for a dislocation but is a very different type of injury.
Many of these injuries or complaints can be treated without surgery. However, some cases are severe enough that surgical correction is the only option. Even so, patients nearly always benefit from chiropractic treatment for shoulder pain in the course of post-operation physical therapy.
How Can a Chiropractor Help with My Shoulder Pain?
Chiropractic medicine is a system of integrative regenerative medicine that focuses on the diagnosis of neuromuscular ailments and treating these complaints through the manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine. It is through the gentle application of pressure and special techniques that a chiropractor realigns the spine to relieve pain and pressure on connective tissues in the shoulder. However, chiropractic treatment of shoulder pain doesn’t focus only on the alignment of your spine.
Here at Freedom Health Centers, we take a whole-patient approach. We recognize that factors ranging from your diet and exercise regimen to your family and medical history all play a part in joint and shoulder pain. Your chiropractor will also look at other contributing factors such as your recreational and work activities. By addressing any underlying or contributing factors, your doctor can help reduce your discomfort, restore mobility, and help prevent future injury.
A chiropractor may also prescribe other methods of pain management and care to aid you in your recovery process. Specific workouts to strengthen supporting muscles help maintain correct alignment and improve stability. Stretches and massage can improve flexibility and restore range of motion. Traction can relieve pressure in the spine and relieve pain. Depending on your complaint some of these methods may be more appropriate than others and can be discussed with your chiropractor.