Shoulder Pain Part 1: Why do you have it?

Why do you have shoulder pain?

The shoulder girdle is simply a shallow ball-in-socket joint. Because of the lack of depth in the socket, a vast and complex array of muscles, tendons, and ligaments act to stabilize the joint, holding your arm to your body but giving a wide range of motion at the joint.   Nine muscles cross the shoulder joint, and 17 attach to the shoulder blade! Because of the joint’s complexity, the chance of getting shoulder pain at sometime in your life is, unfortunately, pretty high.

Picture: tennismd.com

So what happens? Firstly, we are all “handed” creatures. Because of our dominance to one side, in life and in sport, its easy to develop muscle asymmetry.  When a muscle is overdeveloped, it works harder than the other surrounding muscles and can get fatigued, leaving you prone to injury and pain. The surrounding muscles also compensate for weaker ones, causing pain patterns. Secondly, we are also creatures of habit. We often do things repetitively. Working on a computer all day, texting, driving, wakeboarding… When activities become repetitive, wear and tear can develop in the tissues of the joint causing an overuse injury. This leads to the inflammation causing tendonitis, bursitis, and microtearing of muscles and tendons. Thirdly, we are involved in a sport that involves falling. Sometimes very hard. Trauma finds the shoulder like wakeboarders find glassy water. Fast. The shoulder is supported by a lot of muscles, but is often most weak compared to the other joints in the body. Trauma can tear muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cause separation or dislocation of the joints.

Finding out why you have shoulder pain generally takes looking into what you have in your history.  Questions like: Did you have any trauma growing up? What sports were you involved in? What other body parts have you injured? and What does your daily routine involve? can help give clues as to why you are having shoulder pain. A thorough examination of the tissues of the shoulder, including orthopedic and neurological testing can also be done, as well as imaging, to give the full picture.

Stay tuned: Next up is how to avoid getting shoulder pain and what you can do to help it if you already have it!

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