“Over the past few months, I have noticed hat I have less and less use of my arm and shoulder. AND my shoulder hurts really badly. I can’t even lift my arm to reach behind my back anymore. What is going on?”
Sound like you?
Shoulder pain can become utterly debilitating.
Not only can you never really rest your shoulder correctly to aid the healing process, but it can affect your mental health. The daily horizon can feel like social suffocation when you isolate yourself and avoid communal activity because your shoulder pain is so intense.
This isolation and an increased feeling of anxiety only gets worse the longer you leave it.
It’s a prevalent problem, but suffering from shoulder pain and its consequences doesn’t make you a freak of nature. There are millions of North Americans trying to cope with shoulder pain, developing an outright dependence on prescription drugs. However, pills only mask the pain.
In pursuit of shoulder pain relief, heading to your doctor will usually result in one of two things: “go and get some rest”, or “take these pills”. Neither of these options are going to solve your pain.
So, what’s the solution to the discomfort in your shoulder? You need physical therapy!
We’ve helped scores of people to quash their shoulder pain. However, you don’t need to wait until your pain intensifies before seeking help from a physical therapist.
A PT is highly educated in the art of pain relief, and holds a professional license for treating a variety of injuries, chronic conditions, and diseases. At Cardin & Miller, our physical therapists remain the best in the business. You are in safe hands.
When to See a Physical Therapist about Your Shoulder Pain
We’d recommend that you see a physical therapist if your shoulder ache doesn’t go away after a few days. It can quickly become an alarming and frightening situation when you can’t lift your own arm above shoulder level, reach to your back pocket, or take your coat off/put it on.
There are several reasons as to why this could be occurring. In your case, since you noticed that the shoulder is painful (and also noticed that you gradually began to lose the ability to lift your arm overhead or behind your back), you are likely suffering from “frozen shoulder” (the technical term of which is adhesive capsulitis).
Don’t let the condition’s name fool you. This has nothing to do with temperature, and you are not slowly transforming into a character from the Disney motion picture. As we can explain further.
What is Frozen Shoulder and Why Does It Happen?
There is muscular solid connective tissue called a joint capsule that helps connect the shoulder’s ball to the shoulder socket.
In some people, commonly middle-aged women and those with diabetes, when they irritate the rotator cuff tendons via the repetitive use of the shoulder, a fall, or the act of reaching for something with the arm in an awkward position, this can cause the joint capsule to tighten up like shrink wrap around the shoulder joint.
This “shrinkwrapping” effect results in the ball of the shoulder not moving in the socket as you try to lift your arm. This accounts for all directions of movement.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong.
This “shrink wrapping” effect severely limits your range of motion in all directions. It weakens the arm and shoulder, since you cannot use them. This can also result in muscle fatigue.
Often, in the early stages of this disorder, many people have significant tightness and achiness of the surrounding neck and shoulder muscles. Many have difficulty sleeping at night due to the considerable level of discomfort in the neck and shoulder. It’s not something you can escape, either regardless of the sleeping position.
Other (less likely) reasons you could be having this issue revolves around severe rotator cuff compression, or tear of the rotator cuff tendons. Or developing severe arthritis of the shoulder joint, bursitis, compression of nerves at the neck, or a neurological disorder.
However, as mentioned, the problems you are having fit well with the diagnosis of frozen shoulder.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
Your rotator cuff is the cluster of muscles and tendons that surround the joint of your shoulder. It connects your bone firmly to the upper arm within the shoulder socket, and effectively enables you to move your arm around.
As you can therefore imagine, when you injure your rotator cuff, it can lead into severe discomfort and sharp pulsations of shoulder pain. You get a dull, throbbing and injurious affliction that increases in severity when you move your arm away from your body – either to the side or in front.
The rotator cuff becomes more vulnerable to injury as we get older. This type of injury can also occur in patients employed in practical jobs that require repeated overhead movements – such as carpenters, painters, construction workers, warehouse operatives, and similar physically-demanding roles.
It’s unlikely that a rotator cuff injury and subsequent shoulder pain symptoms will stop you from continuing or seeking employment. Still, we’d recommend steering clear of work that exacerbates your symptoms. Although your daily chores and activities may feel uncomfortable, this condition shouldn’t stop you dead in your tracks.
Instead, some regular physical therapy sessions can upgrade the flexibility and strength of your shoulder muscles.
So How Do I Recover from This and Get My Life Back?
Physical therapy is the answer. The main goal of physical therapy? To improve your daily quality of life, by decreasing and terminating your pain at its source, before increasing your strength and mobility.
Have you recently developed shoulder pain and find it challenging to lift items, reach for the high shelf, get dressed appropriately, or get in and out of the bath? Do you avoid social occasions and family events because of embarrassment over your inability to move freely? Physical therapy can likely help and prevent you from taking a surgical route.
You’ll need to have a special treatment technique known as joint mobilizations to stretch the joint capsule, so that the ball of the shoulder can once again move freely in the socket.
In addition to that, you need to have a professional physical therapist stretch your arm/shoulder in the proper directions. This helps to stretch the muscles of the arm, shoulder blades and shoulders, without injury.
Mainly because these muscles adaptively shorten due to the lack of use from the tight capsule, you need to work with an experienced professional for the full beneficial recovery. Trying to do this by yourself can result in further pain and injury.
Lastly, you need a professional to show you the correct strengthening exercises, with the correct technique to restore strength to the shoulder. Going about things in the wrong fashion can result in prolonged discomfort.
How Can Physical Therapy Help with My Shoulder Pain?
If your doctor should recommend physical therapy, then great! You’ve got yourself a fully understanding MD. If your doctor has opted only for pills and rest, get yourself in touch with a PT. They’ll be able to check your range of motion and examine your functional abilities.
After they have established your situation, you’ll be able to work with your PT towards a personalized treatment plan that restores your mobility and gets you back into the lifestyle you deserve.
Besides strengthening, stretching, and working on the stabilization of your joints, other therapy approaches include heat/ice application and electrical stimulation – although we don’t always apply the latter.
Furthermore, your PT can offer advice on how to go about the ergonomics of your working life, family life, and extracurricular activities. This advice will prevent you from incurring extra pain or muscular regression.
How Do I Get Started with Shoulder Pain Relief?
We can get you started with our expert physical therapists at Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy. Our PTs are trained, and successful, in the specific treatment of frozen shoulder and rotator cuff injury. We have helped a huge number of clients to eradicate their shoulder pain and return to normal life.
Our physical therapists will evaluate you to determine if the shoulder pain you are having is actually due to a frozen shoulder, or something different, and they will develop a custom plan of attack to help you get your life back in order.
If you or someone you know fits the description above, have them contact us today!
You can call 717-245-0400 to schedule a FREE SCREEN in which you will get some one-on-one time with one of our expert therapists so that we can set you on the path to recovery.