Shoulder or Elbow

Shoulder Pain

What most people call the shoulder is really several joints that combine with tendons and muscles to allow a wide range of motion in the arm — from scratching your back to throwing the perfect pitch.

Mobility has its price, however. It may lead to increasing problems with instability or impingement of the soft tissue or bony structures in your shoulder, resulting in pain. You may feel pain only when you move your shoulder, or all of the time. The pain may be temporary or it may continue and require medical diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

Most shoulder problems fall into four major categories:

  • Tendon inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or tendon tear
  • Instability
  • Arthritis
  • Fracture (broken bone)

Less common causes of shoulder pain are tumors, infection, and nerve-related problems.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Swelling and Redness
Physical symptoms that go beyond just “feeling sore” can be a sign that you should seek out medical assistance. If your shoulder joint is visibly swollen or if it is tender or warm to the touch, you should strongly consider having it looked at – particularly if symptoms persist over long periods of time.

Home Remedies Failed
When you experience joint pain in an area of the body like the shoulder, your first instinct is likely to try out some home remedies to help the symptoms subside. But if over-the-counter pain reducers, applying cold or hot compresses don’t seem to be doing the trick (or if they only offer a temporary reprieve), it’s probably a good idea to seek help.

Pain When Lifting
Many injury-related shoulder pains can be linked to harm done to your rotator cuff. That’s why one surefire way to determine whether your pain is something that needs a physician’s care is to try lifting your arm over your head. If this or other everyday activities, like getting dressed in the morning, increase your pain level, you may be experiencing a tear or strain that needs to be treated. (Just make sure that you stop at the first sign of pain – there’s no need to overdo your arm-lift test and risk making the condition worse.)

Symptoms Do Not Go Away
Some temporary, home-treatable conditions will last a day or two and subside. However, if your shoulder pain prolongs over several days or even weeks, regardless of the pain level, it may be the result of something chronic such as osteoarthritis, tendinitis or bursitis. If you’re experiencing even moderate symptoms that last longer than a week, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our specialists.

Injury Prevention

The good news is that shoulder problems often can be fixed without surgery. Still, it’s best to avoid the problem in the first place. Here are some ways to do that.

Listen to your body. If your shoulder gets sore after any activity, don’t ignore it. If the pain is serious and doesn’t go away, see your doctor. There’s no need to tough it out. You just might make things worse.

Stay in shape. Keep your body in good physical shape with regular exercise and a healthy diet. It’s a way to stay well and it can help you avoid injury.

Exercise the right way. Warm up before you work out. Start slowly if you haven’t done a sport or an activity in a while. Learn how to lift weights the right way. Don’t lift too much.

Watch out at work. Make sure you don’t injure your shoulder on the job.

  • Use good posture when you sit or stand.
  • Follow the rules for safe lifting. Keep your back straight and use your legs.
  • Take a break for a couple of minutes every hour. Move around and stretch.
  • If you work at a desk, make sure your work station is set up so that you can comfortably use your computer.

Elbow Pain

Elbow pain can be caused by a number of disorders; overuse and sports injuries being the largest contributing factor. Elbow disorders may involve arm muscles, elbow ligaments, tendons or bones in the arm.

Common Causes of Pain

As with other joints, injuries to the elbow can result from overuse or a blow, fall or other sudden trauma. Regardless of the cause, the result can be pain and difficulty doing daily activities. Here are some of the more common elbow injuries.

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Bursitis
  • Biceps tendon tear
  • Dislocations

Try This at Home

  • Rest — Avoid putting weight on your elbow. Try to move as little as possible for the first few days.
  • Ice — Begin by putting a bag of ice on your elbow for at least 20 minutes at a time. Do this three to five times a day for three days after the injury. This helps reduce swelling and numb pain. Give yourself about 90 minutes between icing sessions.
  • Over-the-Counter Medication — Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Bracing — Use a brace to immobilize your elbow.

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • Pain does not go away
  • You have difficulty bending your elbow
  • You feel a locking sensation in the elbow
  • A grating sound is heard with movement
  • Swelling that will not go down

Injury Prevention

Most elbow disorders are the result of overuse and injury. Help prevent injury by …

  • Correcting improper sports techniques
  • Using a proper-sized grip on sports equipment
  • Using proper tension on rackets
  • Warming up and stretching properly
  • Using elbow padding
  • It’s also important to take breaks from repetitive tasks and practice exercises that can help strengthen the muscles around your elbow joint