What To Do About Shoulder Pain

Shoulder impingement occurs when the acromion bone pinches or irritates the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff comprises muscles and tendons that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder, allowing movements. During shoulder impingement, tendon irritation occurs when the rotator cuff rubs against the acromion.

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Symptoms of tendon irritation

Irritation and pain occur when the rotator cuff and acromion come close together. A common symptom is a sudden pain when lifting the arm overhead. Pain travels from the front of the shoulder to the side of the arm. Symptoms can worsen and one can feel pain at night, shoulder or arm weakness, or pain when reaching the back. If one experiences any of these signs and symptoms, immediately consult the doctor for an opinion.

Finding non-surgical options

The aim of treating tendon irritation is to provide pain relief and restore complete function. In the initial stages of tendon irritation, the healthcare provider will recommend conservative treatments. Non-surgical choices for shoulder impingement include rest, ice, physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections. The doctor may adjust the treatment or recommend other options based on the patient’s responsiveness to the given treatment. About 60% of conservatively treated patients are satisfied with the results within 2 years.

Alternate options for unsuccessful conservative treatment

Some patients may not achieve symptomatic relief from non-surgical treatments. In this case, the doctor will recommend surgery to treat shoulder impingement. Tendon irritation can be managed either with arthroscopic surgery or traditional open surgery. Doctors opt for traditional open surgery for extremely severe cases. Surgery is also recommended if the rotator cuff is torn.

The period after a successful surgery

After shoulder impingement surgery, an arm sling is provided to the patient for some time. Additionally, the doctor will recommend a rehabilitation program or physical therapy. This therapy will help in re-gaining strength and movements.

Healing from shoulder impingement

The recuperation time may differ for each patient. Complete recovery after treatment takes about 3-6 months. Severe cases may take longer to heal like about a year. Returning to normal activities can begin within 2-4 weeks however, always consult the healthcare provider before any activity. If symptoms return during or after an activity, inform the healthcare specialist.

Visiting the doctor for treatment

The healthcare provider will examine the shoulder and arm at the clinic or hospital and do some tests. Based on the findings, the doctor will either recommend conservative solutions or surgery. Not every shoulder impingement requires surgery and some patients have successfully resolved tendon irritation without surgery. Explore treatment options for shoulder impingement with the healthcare specialist.

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