Arm and shoulder pain can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and have a significant hindrance on everyday life if it goes without treatment. Sometimes the cause of arm and shoulder pain may be identifiable, resulting from a dislocation, separation, or prior injury. But sometimes the cause of this pain can be a result of an underlying condition such as arthritis, tendonitis, or even gallbladder trouble. Regardless of the cause, there are many options available to patients to treat arm and shoulder pain. Below is a list of some causes, non-invasive, and minimally invasive treatment options for those experiencing arm and shoulder pain.
Causes of Arm and Shoulder Pain
It goes without saying that accidents can cause a variety of injuries to the arm and shoulder. Some of these commonly seen injuries include:
- Brachial Plexus Injury-Usually resulting from sports, auto, or motorcycle accidents, brachial plexus injuries occur when the nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the arm and shoulder are compressed, stretched, or torn. Symptoms include numbness down the arm, weakness, and lack of arm movement.
- Dislocation – dislocation of the shoulder or elbow is an obvious form of injury that occurs when the joint is forced out of alignment or overextended. Distortion of the joint along with pain is a clear identifier of a dislocation.
Arm and Shoulder pain can also be caused by various pain conditions, including, but not limited to:
- Bursitis – Commonly known as joint inflammation, bursitis affects the fluid-filled sacs also known as bursaes that cushion the bone, muscle, and tendon surrounding a joint. The shoulder, elbow, and hip are the most common areas where patients experience bursitis.
- Tendinitis – This specific inflammation of the tendon is commonly known as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or pitcher’s shoulder. This is the irritation of the tendons that attach bone to muscle.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – A chronic inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis is known for causing painful swelling that affects the lining of joints. Tender, swollen joints, fatigue, and joint stiffness are some of the common markers for this condition.
If you find yourself experiencing pain in your arm and/or shoulder, there are many treatment options available to you.
Follow RICE measures:
- Rest – avoid strenuous activity and take a break from any movements that activate the pain
- Ice – apply ice for 15-20 minutes up to three times a day
- Compression – if necessary, use a compression bandage to help reduce swelling
- Elevation – elevate arm if possible to aid in reducing any swelling
Other treatments types include:
- Take an anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen to help reduce pain and inflammation
- Corticosteroid injections are anti-inflammatory injections that your doctor can turn to for a more aggressive form of pain management
- Newer advancements in treatment suggest that the injection of NASHA hyaluronic acid is also effective in treating arm and shoulder pain, specifically in patients with osteoarthritis
It is important to note that severe arm and shoulder pain that comes on suddenly and is accompanied by a fullness in your chest or any type of chest pain should receive immediate medical attention to rule out cardiac arrest. However, for common forms of arm and shoulder pain, the suggestions above should be considered as a first line of treatment. Of course, everyone responds differently to different types of treatment. If the pain does not go away or seems to worsen, contact your doctor and consider other forms of treatment. Depending on the cause, physical therapy or surgery may be necessary.