There are many causes of shoulder pain. Of course, the most common cause is muscles. If the muscles in your neck, chest, back or anywhere in the shoulder area are out-of-balance (that means tighter on one side than the other) that can cause pain in your shoulder.
When you look at pictures of a shoulder skeleton you will see that without muscles the whole thing would just fall apart.
Muscles cross over joints. They attach one bone to another. That’s how we are able to move. The muscle moves the bone when we contract (shorten) the muscle.
The muscles of the shoulder area can be out-of-balance and they can also develop trigger points. Trigger points are areas of specialized tightness that are very irritable. The irritable places can cause pain nearby or at a far distance.
Trigger points can make it hard to move your arm, shoulder or shoulder blade properly and so can muscles that are too strong on one side and too weak on the other (out-of-balance.)
Your shoulder has four muscles that are called the rotator cuff muscles.
- One is packed onto the lower outside 2/3’s of your shoulder blade (infraspinatis.)
- One is packed into the top of the shoulder blade (supraspinatis.)
- One is sandwiched between your shoulder blade and your ribs (subscapularis.)
- The fourth is on the outer side of your shoulder blade and attaches to your arm (terres.)
The rotator cuff muscles keep your arm bone in the socket and rotate your upper arm. But those are not the only muscles that can cause shoulder pain. Others can, too.
And, sometimes shoulder pain is caused by a muscle being torn from the bone. Tendons are the ends of muscles that attach to bones. A tear can be partial or complete. My understanding is that a partial tear can heal itself eventually. It takes a long time because it is very tough tissue without a lot of blood supply.
A complete tear may need to be surgically repaired if it is causing too much pain or dysfunction. I understand that it takes a long time to recover from reattaching a tendon surgically.
I have seen a few upper arm muscles whose tendons were completely detached. That caused the muscle to be positioned and appear differently on that side but the arms I saw were still functional.
Ligaments attach bone to bone and sometimes they can be injured. Ligaments stabilize joints. If they are torn from the bone the joint can be ‘sloppy.’
Another cause of shoulder pain can be a bone spur in the joint. When a muscle is always pulling on a bone, sometimes the bone throws out extra calcium to help take the pressure off. That extra calcium is called a spur.
When there is a shoulder impingement the bones don’t allow the arm to move freely and there may be pain.
In some of these cases, you will want to talk with your doctor about options.
Always remember, you can ask all the questions you need to ask to feel comfortable making a decision for treatment.
Hopefully, most doctors will first recommend physical therapy (it would be fabulous if they also recommended therapeutic massage but very few understand the value of massage.)
Conservative treatment is always my first choice. Surgery is the last resort unless it’s an emergency.
I love surgeons but I have learned first hand that it’s not a good idea to go to a surgeon for a first opinion.
And, remember, I’m not a doctor.
You may decide to see a massage therapist who specializes in pain relief (<–click to learn how) before you see the doctor.
You might pick up a self-help trigger point book (<–click here) and look at all the possible muscular causes of your shoulder pain and treat them yourself. The trigger point book I recommend is very easy to understand and use. If you can’t afford or find a massage therapist you can be your own therapist!
Those are two of the most conservative and least expensive ways to get rid of pain in your shoulder naturally.