Basics of Shoulder Anatomy
The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the human body consisting of four different joints that are surrounded by complex muscles, bursas, joint capsules, and nerve endings. Due to its complex nature, there are many reasons why one may feel many forms of shoulder pain such as discomfort, numbness, weakness, or decreased range of motion in their shoulder.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
Some of the most common causes of shoulder pain could be a result of certain conditions such as dyskinesia of the shoulder, osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tear or tendonitis, subacromial bursitis, frozen shoulder, bicipital tendonitis, rheumatoid Arthritis, shoulder impingement, shoulder dislocation, labral tears, and many more. Depending on your age, sex, occupation, social, or family history, you may be more at risk for suffering from one of the aforementioned shoulder conditions. In fact, approximately 18 million Americans suffer from shoulder pain each year. If you or someone you know is suffering from shoulder pain, the best course of action to find a resolution to one’s problem would be to get it thoroughly assessed by a professional.
What many people don’t know is that one of those professionals they can seek care from is a Chiropractor. A Chiropractor is highly skilled in the anatomy and physiology of the soft tissue surrounding the joint such as muscles, joints, ligaments, and also the nerves which control the shoulder. But what would a Chiropractor be looking for when assessing a shoulder?
Collecting Patient History
Due to the complexity of the shoulder girdle and the multitude of conditions that can occur in the shoulder, a thorough assessment is crucial in diagnosing what is causing one’s shoulder pain. However, first, a history must be taken to determine what has caused the shoulder pain whether it was caused by a previous trauma, overuse, or an insidious onset. If a trauma has occurred, such as a fall on an outstretched hand, or blow to the back of the shoulder, a rotator cuff tear, ligamentous instability, or fracture may be suspected. In order to diagnose a rotator cuff tear or instability, a physical examination and orthopedic testing would be done to the shoulder to determine if an MRI is necessary to further diagnose the severity of the condition.
Your Greenville Chiropractor would also refer a patient to a trusted orthopedic specialist and physical therapy for rehabilitation of the shoulder. The medical team would work in partnership for the patient’s best outcome. If a fracture is suspected, additional orthopedic tests can be performed along with an X-ray to finalize whether a fracture is present. Similar to a rotator cuff tear, the patient would be referred to an orthopedic specialist to further assess the patient’s complaint.
Identifying the Source of Joint Pain
Once a tear, instability, or fracture is ruled out, further orthopedic testing can be done to determine whether the pain is coming from an osseous misalignment or soft tissue. Soft tissue problems that can commonly occur are conditions such as adhesive capsulitis (aka frozen shoulder) which presents as pain and severely decreased range of motion, bicipital tendonitis which would cause pain in the anterior portion of the shoulder, subacromial bursitis which would cause pin-point pain at the superior aspect of the shoulder, or impingement whose pain varies in location depending on the type of impingement occurring. For each soft tissue condition, conservative care is recommended for the treatment which can be done in the office and at home after a proper examination is performed and a specific care plan is made for you.
Correcting Misalignment is Critical to Avoiding Soft Tissue Damage
If it is found during the physical and orthopedic examination that a person’s shoulder pain is a result of an osseous misalignment of the shoulder girdle that could be treated by chiropractic care, then a specific care plan would be created for the patient to return the bones to their normal alignment and stabilize the area of concern. There are multiple ways that the shoulder could misalign because there are four different joints that make up the shoulder girdle, with the scapula, humerus, and clavicle making up those joints. Misalignment of the shoulder can occur from falls, poor posture, overuse, etc. It is important to have normal alignment of the shoulder because the shoulder is solely held together by soft tissue such as muscle and ligaments, therefore, when the shoulder misaligns, the muscles and ligaments will become distorted which will lead to them being more prone to injury and tearing. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure that the shoulder girdle is aligned to prevent future avoidable injury.
Where Pain is Felt vs Where it Originates May Be Different
In addition to having the shoulder girdle thoroughly assessed, it is important to also assess the cervical spine for injury or degeneration due to the fact that the nerves that exit from the cervical spine directly innervate the shoulder. If a nerve is compressed upon, a person can experience pain that radiates from the neck into the shoulder and down the arm. If the nerve pressure is not addressed, the nerve will, unfortunately, begin to degenerate which will lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of sensation in the area. It is crucial to have your spine checked for nerve pressure as soon as symptoms arise to prevent the nerve from degenerating.
The most efficient way to get rid of your shoulder pain is to get a thorough examination done to locate the root cause of your problem. A Chiropractor is highly trained in assessing both the shoulder girdle and cervical spine to help find the root cause of your problem so that you can return to living your life free of pain and restriction. In our office, an in-depth case history will be taken to assess when the issue began, any injuries or overuse that may have damaged the area, and how it is affecting your life. A 36-point examination will then be performed which includes physical, neurological, and orthopedic tests to determine what may be causing your problem. Lastly, if deemed necessary, an X-ray will be taken to further assess the area. If it is found that you may need further care that we cannot render in our office, we ensure that we will send you to the facility that can care for you.
Our goal is to help you feel liberated from pain and restriction so that you can live your life in the best way possible. Don’t let shoulder pain steal another second of joy from your life! Schedule a FREE consultation online or by phone at 1 (864) 631-1420.
McGrew, Chris, and Andrew Ashbaugh. Checklist for Physical Examination of the Shoulder.
McHugh, Brian MD. “Common Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease.” Spine, 2017
Miniato, Mohammed A. “Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Shoulder.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 31 July 2020
“Shoulder Anatomy.” Kent Orthopaedic Practice
Souza, Thomas A. Differential Diagnosis and Management for the Chiropractor. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2018.