Got the weight of the world on your shoulders?

A closer look at the causes of shoulder pain


Are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? We've all heard the expression that captures what it feels like when we're under too much stress. But our shoulders actually carry more "weight" of our day-to-day lives than many realize.

The shoulder is made of a ball-and-socket joint that allows us to move our arms with a wide range of motion. Such mobile joints, which are also found in the hips, can perform many more actions than joints with more limited mobility, such as the hinge joints that are found in our knees and elbows. Despite the greater abilities of ball-and-socket joints, they tend to be more susceptible to injury—precisely because we rely on them to do so much for our bodies. 

Common actions we perform in daily tasks—and common occurrences beyond our control, such as car accidents or falls—can easily cause problems with our shoulders. Have you ever wondered what types of underlying problems and injuries could be causing your pain?

A few examples include:

  • Strains from overexertion can be caused from an activity like using a weed eater for a long period of time.
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons) from overuse or improper tracking of the tendon that leads to the shoulder is frequently caused by lifting a heavy object—in particular, lifting something heavy from behind you, such as occurs when reaching from the front to the backseat of your car to retrieve an item.
  • Shoulder joint instability, which is most often seen as the result of a fall.
  • Pinched nerves (also called radiculopathy) is a form of pressure on the nerves that keeps them from properly sending key information between your brain and spinal cord. Pinched nerves usually occur in the neck, but they can also occur in the shoulder, causing limited function in that area of the body.
  • Muscle weakness or atrophy occurs from injury to the shoulder itself or can be a type of limited function that results from pinched nerves, as discussed above. 
  • Dislocation of the shoulder is another injury commonly seen in patients who have fallen. 
  • Collar or upper-arm bone fractures are associated with impact injuries (when the shoulder is struck with force), such as when a shoulder hits a steering wheel during an auto accident.
  • Frozen shoulder, or stiffness in the shoulder joint, can have many different causes, but a common one is scar tissue (known as adhesions), often stemming from repetitive actions that lead to friction between the muscles or other tissues of the shoulder joints.

The good news is that, a lot of the time, shoulder pain can be improved without the use of drugs or surgery. We can help get you on the road to recovery—and the faster you begin treatment, the faster you can start feeling relief. As I often say to patients who have been suffering for months or even years, "The five most dangerous words in the English language are: 'Maybe it will go away.'" Shoulder pain is unlikely to get better without working to correct the underlying problems causing it. In fact, more often than not, waiting only causes further aggravation and damage. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from shoulder pain or has endured one of the common events that can lead to shoulder pain down the line—such as a car accident or fall—give us a call. We'd love to help!

Yours in health,
Dr. Taylor