There isn’t a week that I don’t see a patient come with shoulder problems which in many cases are debilitating and extremely painful. What usually occurs is that the patient starts with a mild pain around the shoulder joint, and expects it to go away within a few days or weeks, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen. Because it is left untreated for several weeks or months they can no longer continue with their daily routine because of the loss of mobility and intensity of the pain.
This issue needs attending as soon as possible to avoid chronic shoulder issues. The sooner it is treated the better the recovery, and of course, less sessions will be needed.
Of course not every shoulder is the same. We can find all kinds of causes for shoulder dysfunctions that vary from a mild muscle problem (that only involves a couple of sessions to re-establish the rotator cuff stability), to a rotator cuff tendinitis (or more correctly, tendonosis) that requires a correct diagnosis (MRI or Ultrasonography in many cases) and needs many more sessions to obtain a full recovery.
I will now describe the typical scenario of a supraspinatus (rotator cuff tendon)tendonosis:
This is a condition that develops over time, usually caused by a repetitive strain on the tendon due to a certain activity under which the tendon is continually irritated. At the beginning this tendon puts up with this strain and doesn’t cause any pain at all, the patient may feel slight tiredness in the shoulder, but nothing more. Over time the tendon enlarges and begins to give symptoms, patients refer pain and weakness in the affected shoulder.
With tendonosis we find a curious type of pain. In many occasions after a few weeks or months, the pain is located further down the arm and doesn’t really give pain in the actual shoulder. in this case it is referred pain from the tendon that travels half way down the side of the humerus. Patients often comment that they have no pain most of the day but there are certain movements that ‘catch them out’ with intense pain.
Another thing that also happens is that the patient often mentions that there are certain days that they feel practically no pain and feel it is improving, but then they have other days where the pain is very intense. As they say, “I have good days and bad days”.
If left untreated for weeks or months there is a high risk of developing a “frozen shoulder”, and this is a real problem that can take months or years to cure.
This is just a very short example of one of the most common conditions that we treat here at the Family Medical Centre, but there are many other conditions that can affect the shoulder with different symptoms.
In conclusion, any shoulder discomfort should be assessed by your physiotherapist or osteopath to determine a correct diagnosis allowing a correct treatment and recovery.
Article supplied by Simon Ratcliffe
Osteopath, the Family Medical Centre, Albir.