Diagnosing and Solutions for Persistent Shoulder Pain - healing shoulder painHealing Shoulder Pain: Common problems and How to Treat It

Diagnosing and Solutions for Persistent Shoulder Pain

Injury or posture and hunched shoulders can leave you feeling tight and uncomfortable. Left untreated, it may lead to other problems, including breathing issues and chronic pain. If over time, you have noticed that your shoulder or shoulders have become very hard to move, our pain relief services may be ideal for you. Or perhaps you’re suffering from COVID-19 long haulers’ symptoms and it leaves you hunching more. The shoulder is regarded as one of the most mobile and least stable joint in a person’s body, which means it’s highly prone to injury. When you see a health professional for this, they have a large number of tools at their disposal from a thorough history emphasizing the time and character of the shoulder pain, range of motion and the ability to do everyday activities, and much more. “Shoulder pain is a common complaint seen at the primary physician’s clinic, and it is the third most common musculoskeletal complaint after back and neck pain”, according to Pubmed. Ran Schwarzkopf, MD authored the January 2008 article titled Shoulder pain: assessment, diagnosis and treatment of common problems. 70% of people either do or will suffer the effects of shoulder pain. Pain treatment is well advanced for this common alignment and help is available. First, let’s start with a basic understanding of a shoulder pain assessment.

The Basic Composition of a Person’s Shoulder

A person’s shoulders are the joints where upper-arm bones (humerus), shoulder blades (scapula), and an individual’s collarbone (clavicle) intersect. The design of the human body is ingenious and these three parts are created to function together perfectly. The humerus fits into scapula’s rounded socket on each side of the human body. Shoulders are held in place by a group of four muscles and tendons. This involves your rotator cuff, which is a fitted cover that protects the humerus bone and lets you raise and move your arm with ease. Over one’s lifetime, the rotator cuff may become worn or damaged and cause shoulder pain. According to NIH, “Shoulder pain is a common problem with an estimated prevalence of 4% to 26%. The most common source of shoulder pain is the rotator cuff, accounting for over two-thirds of cases.” This makes it a primary concern for treatment at MHPC.

Does shoulder pain typically go away on its own over time?

Due to the common use of our arms and hands, most people can’t just ignore shoulder pain. Shoulder problems rarely go away on their own. Accurately pinpointing which condition is triggering your pain is where to start. Next steps include assess how to effectively and safely achieve lasting pain relief while maintaining your recovered flexibility and renewed range-of-motion. Your initial shoulder pain diagnosis may include an ideal imaging test. With a planned pain relief approach, activities that leave you increasingly vulnerable to pain will be identified and can be reduced.

What are the Common Causes of On-going Shoulder Pain?

Typical causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Shoulder surgery recovery.
  • Rotator cuff tear.
  • A bone crack or fracture.
  • A torn bicep that makes you move your shoulder differently.
  • Chronic upper back arthritis pain.
  • Shoulder dislocations.
  • An adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder).
  • Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).
  • Bursitis (a fluid-filled sac that cushions joints).
  • Bone spurs (osteophytes).
  • Referred pain (from an internal injury like to your gall bladder).
  • Shoulder impingement.
Shoulder pain presents in various ways, depending on which body structures are aggravated or experienced damaged. Healing shoulder pain and improving your mobility is commonly accomplished with physical therapy and self-care. The MN Head and Neck Pain clinic offers a proven approach that can help to reduce these causes of persistent shoulder pain, as well as TMJ pain.

What Symptoms Typically Indicate a Shoulder Injury?

Common symptoms of a shoulder injury to look out for are:

  • Do your arms function normally? Do a quick check in front of a mirror and notice if your shoulder is unusually stiff or painful when you move it in all directions.
  • Listen attentively for a popping sound. It may indicate that your shoulder has loose or tight ligaments causing more friction as you move it.
  • If you notice that your shoulder feels weaker than normal during functions it had performed easily before.
  • Increased headaches volume and strength can be triggered by shoulder damage and malfunctioning.
  • Lay on your site and do simple arm raises to note if your shoulder has abnormal functions.
Most people don’t think about their shoulders much, until they suddenly experience pain in one of them. Pain is actually a good shout-out when you need to pay attention to something. Shoulder pain can be triggered by a simple movement like when you twist to get out of your car, brushing or drying your hair, attempting to reach behind your back to fasten a button, or grabbing something off a high shelf. If something that you once did without a thought of how to do it has become a monumental task, seek help. How you hold yourself and train your shoulder muscles with each movement contributes to your overall health. Some body movements task the shoulder and upper back muscles. If not carried out properly, they may cause pain and headaches. Avoid shrugging shoulders, forward head posture, repeated twisting or turning the neck. Remind yourself regularly to identify any tensing habits. Use reminders such as stickers or timers. If noticed, replace negative habits with positive habits of having your head up, chest up, chin in, shoulders relaxed and down. Use a pain log to review daily activities that aggravate the neck and shoulder pain and modify these activities. Think of what protects your shoulder and neck muscles whether you’re sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you end each day pain-free. Aim to keep good posture at all times.

What Physical Activities put Strain on Shoulder and Upper Back Muscles?

Activities to avoid that strain your shoulder muscles:

  • Shoulder shrugging and tensing.
  • Sleeping on your stomach.
  • Shoulder strain from computer use.
  • Rounded shoulders and forward head.
  • Repeated raising arms above head.
  • Bracing the phone between ear and shoulder.
  • Slouching while sitting forward in a chair.
  • Carrying heavy purse/backpack on one shoulder.
  • Lifting heavy items above your head.
  • Turning head to one side for hours with screen.
Practice calming stress reactions by pausing to take a few deep breaths, quieting your mind, and practice relaxing your shoulder and neck muscles. This helps reduce your reactions to stressful life events and decrease tension in the jaw and oral habits such as clenching. With some daily stretching and light exercise, you can help to loosen tight muscles and build strength. This is often necessary after surgery or injury. If your home exercises don’t seem to help, consider seeing a pain doctor or physical therapist to help address your underlying pain issue.

How is a Doctor Likely to Diagnose Shoulder Pain?

  • Examination. Your pain doctor will examine your shoulder.
  • X-rays. Your pain doctor will seek to identify possible bone spurs, arthritis, and other bone-related typical things that generate shoulder pain. This may include an arthrogram, which involves a safe dye injection to make the details stand up for an easier diagnosis.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This scan type utilizes radio waves and a powerful digital magnet that produces detailed images of your shoulder.
  • Electromyography (EMG). This evaluated the electrical activity within muscles to see if and where any problems with your nerves may exist.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. This is a more advanced X-rays type that is snaps images from different angles. When assembled together, they provide your doctor a better view at what’s happening with your shoulder.
  • Arthroscopy. This surgical procedure lets a tiny fiber-optic camera reveal to your doctor high-definition images of what’s going on within your shoulder. At times, doctors may determine that it is possible to treat the problem during the procedure.
A combination of two or more of the above will establish a clear pain diagnosis and path to becoming pain-free. Shoulder pain often occurs in tandem with headache, neck pain, and jaw pain issues.

Will prescription drugs be necessary to treat agonizing shoulder pain?

Other interventions beyond physical therapy may be recommended. Anti-inflammatory medicines commonly help. These may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for a time, corticosteroid injections, or, in severe and persistent cases, surgery. But most of the time, shoulder pain treatment responds well to non-operative types of medical care. Short-term use of over-the-counter ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or aspirin (without caffeine) can reduce inflammation, joint, and muscle pain. Consider using a combination of ibuprofen and Tylenol before bedtime to relieve pain with sleep. Avoid opioid medications since it increases pain over time.

What is the safe way to lift heavy items to protect sore shoulders?

If your daily work flow requires heavy lifting, you will learn how to use the proper lifting technique. Depending upon your unique situation, it may be fine-tuned but will likely include the following: Squarely face what you’re about to lifting. Pay attention to keeping your back straight over your hips. Bend your knees and use your legs for a power boost.

Help a Shoulder Injury Heal with Basic Good Health Practices

Eat a healthy low inflammatory diet and get a good night’s sleep; it always helps a body with normal and unusual healing needs. Eat a pain-free sugar-free diet with primary vegetables, salad, olive oil, nuts, legumes, and seeds. Add protein such as chicken, fish, tofu after salad. Improve your sleep patterns by creating a sound sleep environment with a cool, quiet, and dark sleeping room. Avoid caffeine in coffee, tea, and soft drinks. Get a comfortable semi-firm mattress and squishable pillow. Reduce stimulating activities before bed including computer work, video, TV drama, and exercising. Sleep on your side or back with a pillow to support your head and between or under your knees. Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates that cause inflammation. Avoid caffeine that causes tense muscles, headaches, and sleep disorders and may accentuate neck pain and TMJ pain.

What can I do for immediate pain relief from sore shoulder muscles?

Heat, ice, and muscle massage can help relieve pain. Apply heat or ice to sore upper back and shoulder muscles and joints. This will help improve healing, reduce the sensitivity of muscles and joints, and encourage healing. Trigger point massage with a thumb, finger, or knobble for a few minutes can provide a deep massage to the tender trigger points within tight shoulder muscle bands. This will reduce their tenderness, relax the upper back muscles, and reduce pain. For others, trigger point injections help. Do you have questions about your symptoms? Video chat with us today through our telemedicine services.


We can provide a complete shoulder workout to strengthen your shoulder muscles and protect you from future damage and soreness. Our pain management team is knowledgeable about the new breakthroughs that can lessen pain and speed a shoulder injury recovery. You will gain personal tips to strengthen and protect your shoulder’s long-term mobility and durability.

Call (763) 577-2484 to schedule your appointment. We’ll let you know what to expect from our doctors.

  About the author Jeannie Hill is a digital consultant that specializes in healthcare marketing and Google Business Profile management. Aritcle reviewed by Cory Herman DDS and James Fricton DDS.

Our mission is to provide high-quality, effective patient care for head and neck disorders through a multispecialty, interdisciplinary approach designed to reduce pain and improve function for all our patients.

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