Shoulder pain is a common problem among adults. It is most often caused inflammation due to an injury to the muscles and tendons stabilizing the shoulder joint. These structures are more commonly known as the rotator cuff, which can be easily damaged through wear and tear from overuse. To compensate for the discomfort and pain in this area we use different muscles to move the shoulder in doing activities such as reaching or picking up objects. These mechanisms cause pain in the shoulder as well as the neck area.
Shoulder pain associated with rotator cuff injury is characterized by dull, aching pain in the shoulder and upper arm. It is usually felt when you try to reach overhead, lifting objects or reaching behind the back. The pain usually persists at night and improves when the arm is rested.
Sometimes shoulder pains are associated with neck pains. Inflammation around the neck joints can compress the nerve roots in this area and affect the shoulders as well. A common cause of neck and shoulder pains is arthritis, which can lead to nerve-related pains. It is characterized by a stabbing, burning, or sharp pain in the neck and shoulder blade. Tingling sensation can also occur, which radiates to the elbow and hand. The pain occurs when the arm is extended and twisted inwards. It persists at rest but is relieved by supporting the neck.
Is it a Heart Attack?
Although most shoulder pains are related to muscle, joint and nerve problems, sometimes they may be related to a heart attack. Some people who have a heart disease experience angina pectoris, or chest pains that last for a few minutes. These chest pains may manifest in various ways such as heaviness, pressure, fullness, tightness, squeezing, or burning discomfort. The pain, which may range from mild to severe, sometimes spreads to the shoulders, neck, back, jaw, upper arm and upper abdomen. Angina pectoris is usually relieved by resting and by taking sublingual nitroglycerin.
During a heart attack, these symptoms do not go away even when resting or taking nitroglycerin. Other symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, dizziness or lightheadedness may occur. People usually experience impending doom although in others, a heart attack is silent and less dramatic.
Consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you are not sure what to do, call 911. Do not delay treatment or try to drive to the hospital by yourself. It is also better to call 911 than to have someone else drive you to the hospital.
Treatment for Shoulder Pain
Shoulder and related neck pains may be relieved by resting and avoiding activities that cause the pain. You can also apply heat and cold therapy alternately several times a day, especially at night. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. Physical therapy to restore shoulder function and improve strength are also recommended.
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