Your shoulder is a workhorse of a joint. It’s in play when you brush your hair, hit a tennis ball, swim some laps, or grab something off an overhead shelf. Despite how much work your shoulder does, you probably don’t give it much thought unless something goes wrong. When something does go wrong, however, your shoulder will get your full attention. That’s because shoulder injuries can be very painful, limit your movements, and affect the quality of your life. Two of the most common shoulder problems are rotator cuff injuries and frozen shoulder.
Rotator Cuff Injuries
Your shoulder joint is a unique joint in your body. It has a wide range of motion because it is a fairly shallow ball and socket joint. Because the socket isn’t very deep, your body relies on the surrounding tendons, ligaments, and muscles to hold the head of your upper arm bone (humerus) in place. Your rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles which not only hold the joint in place, but work to lift, move, rotate, and stabilize your shoulder. They are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, Teres minor, and subscapularis. Interestingly, while these muscles are crucial to the movement and stabilization of your shoulder, they originate in and around your shoulder blade (scapula).
One of the most common injuries to your rotator cuff is a tear in one of the muscles. Rotator cuff tears frequently occur from overuse, a fall, injury or lifting a heavy object. It’s common in people who regularly perform overhead movements, such as painting or throwing.
You can also develop inflammation-related injuries to your rotator cuff. Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon, which attaches your muscles to bone, and can become irritated in the rotator cuff muscles where they attach near the shoulder. Bursitis is inflammation of your bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that protect many of your joints. The bursa that protects your rotator cuff may become inflamed through a direct injury or from repetitive movements.
Also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is exactly like it sounds. It occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint, or capsule, becomes thick, stiff, and inflamed. Dense bands of the capsules tissue thicken, called adhesions, which inhibit movement in the joint. In addition, the synovial fluid, which provides lubrication within the joint, may also be reduced. The symptoms of frozen shoulder are an inability to move your shoulder and severe pain.
Frozen shoulder tends to occur in stages as follows:
- In the initial stage, your shoulder begins to freeze. Slowly over several weeks to months, the pain becomes worse and you lose the ability to move your shoulder
- During the frozen stage, you are unable to move your shoulder, making everyday activities challenging to perform. During this stage, your pain may not be as severe as when it was beginning to freeze. Without treatment this stage typically lasts four to six months.
- As your shoulder begins to heal, your ability to move your arm slowly improves. In most cases, your shoulder will regain its full range of motion and strength, however it can take some time. This stage can take from 6 to 24 months.
It’s not clear exactly what causes frozen shoulder, but scientists have some clues. Frozen shoulder occurs more frequently in people who have diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, and heart disease. In addition, people who have had their shoulder immobilized for weeks or months following surgery, a fracture, injury, or other illness may be at a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder.
Healing Your Shoulder at BodaHealth
At BodaHealth, our goal is to reduce your pain, improve your range of motion, and restore function. Our team of caring professionals have a number of strategies and healing tools to make that happen. Among them:
-Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. The research is clear; acupuncture can help with a number of pain conditions, including shoulder pain. In a number of studies, researchers have found that acupuncture is effective in reducing pain and restoring function in patients with frozen shoulder. At BodaHealth, our acupuncture practitioners combine acupuncture with other treatments for the best results. Chinese herbs or supplements may be added to your treatment plan to help reduce inflammation and nourish your muscles to support the healing process. In addition, cupping therapy may also be used. Cupping is a practice in which your acupuncturist places cups on your skin in which a vacuum has been created. It can help to increase circulation in the area and stimulate healing.
-Shockwave Therapy uses acoustic waves to deliver a series of pulses to the affected area. At BodaHealth, we have found shockwave therapy to be a particularly effective treatment for shoulder problems. It’s thought to work by creating small and painless percussions to the tissue to initiate a healing cascade. Shockwave therapy increases circulation to the area, relieves pain, and stimulates tissue repair.
-Injection Therapy can be an effective answer for challenging conditions, including frozen shoulder and rotator cuff injuries. Hyaluronic acid injections are used to cushion and add glide within the shoulder joint, and to promote healing. Acupoint injection combines the healing properties of acupuncture with injection therapy to treat muscle-related pain and trigger points. Injection therapy may be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments.
-Movement and Massage. BodaHealth offers a number of therapeutic options to help our patients maintain or restore their range of motion and return to full function as quickly as possible. We feature practitioners who are highly trained and experienced in the following:
- Fascial stretching, which involves active stretching through a series of movements to improve your flexibility and range of motion.
- Kinesiology and exercise physiology help patients rehabilitate their shoulder and learn ways to regain function without further injury.
- Therapeutic Exercise and Clinical Pilates target your core muscles as a way to gain flexibility and strengthen your entire body. Sessions are developed to help you regain movement, build strength and flexibility, and resume everyday activities.
- Massage Therapy can be an important component in restoring function to patients with shoulder injuries. During a session, your therapist will use massage to increase circulation to the injured area, loosen tight muscles, reduce pain, and reduce stress.
- Osteopathy is a hands-on therapy in which your practitioner will work with you to determine the source of your shoulder issues and develop a treatment strategy. Our osteopathy practitioner is highly trained and experienced in hands-on manipulation aimed at treating musculoskeletal imbalances, reducing pain, and restoring functionality.
-Naturopathic Medicine provides systemic solutions to your shoulder pain. Our naturopathic physicians are able to assess your overall health, including your nutritional status, digestion, and other factors that may play a role in your condition. They will then develop a plan that may include vitamin and nutritional supplements, herbs, and nutritional and lifestyle strategies that help reduce inflammation and support the healing process.
The bottom line is that shoulder pain and injuries can negatively impact your quality of life. At BodaHealth, we understand that and are committed to helping you heal and return to the activities that are important to you. If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, call us today and let us help you.