Shoulder Pain — Intractable For A Good Reason

Shoulder pain has many causes and manifestations. The pain can be pinpoint sharp, stabbing, tearing, burning, dull, diffuse, constant, or appear with only certain movements. One example of such diffuse shoulder pain is adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder syndrome).

With acute trauma to the shoulder joint or the rotator cuff tendons, pain will be located right in the joint or around the joint.

Most other shoulder pain tends to be more diffuse, dull, and sometimes sharp or stabbing when moving the arm up and down, laying on that shoulder, or lifting things. Its intractable nature may be due to old injuries that never properly healed, scar formation after surgery, or muscle tension due to overuse or improper use of any of the muscles involved in moving the shoulder joint. Old injuries may have occurred not only at the shoulder joint but also to the neck, back, or arm.

Shoulder pain may involve many different muscles.

Consider that there are 17 muscles contributing to shoulder movement.  They have attachments to the spine, shoulder blades (scapulae), collarbones (clavicles), rib cage, and upper arm bones (humerus), as well as the ulna and radius (bones of the forearm).

The infamous rotator cuff muscles cover the back and front of the shoulder blade and attach to the upper arm bone (humerus)

  • the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor

Other muscles attach to the shoulder blade, as well as the spine, rib cage, the humerus, ulna, or radius.

  • the teres major, levator scapulae, serratus anterior, rhomboid major and minor, and trapezius
  • the pectoralis major and minor (chest muscles)
  • the deltoid covering the shoulder joint like a cap
  • the biceps brachii, triceps, and coracobrachialis

The broad latissimus dorsi covers the back below the trapezius and attaches to the spine, as well as the humerus, but not to the shoulder blade.

Shoulder pain is rarely experienced in just one location.

All these muscles participate in shoulder movement.  Moreover, most of these muscles have attachments not only to the shoulder joint but also to the rib cage and various places of the spine, from the neck down to the sacrum.

Thus injury to the shoulder may cause secondary injury to the rib cage, neck or back.  Conversely, injury to the arm, neck, back, or rib cage may cause secondary injury to the shoulder joint.  Often, pain appears in more than one location.

With so many structures and muscles involved in shoulder movement, chasing down the origin of diffuse shoulder pain can be a nightmare.

No need to despair.

There’s plenty that can be done for diffuse shoulder pain.

  • Engage the help of a health professional well grounded in body structure, movement, and, of course, physical therapy.
  • A careful evaluation of your posture and use of all the muscles involved in shoulder movement will help you to correct the habits that may have contributed to the creation of your shoulder pain.
  • Bodywork such as massage, shiatsu, acupuncture or acupressure, rolfing, Feldenkrais therapy, or any of the other types of bodywork can do much to reduce pain and discomfort by relaxing the muscles.
  • Feldenkrais therapy helps to reeducate the body in the use of these muscles.
  • Herbs, homeopathy. and flower essences not only help with the physical pain or discomfort but also soothe the mind and emotions.  Emotional and mental stress are important contributors to any kind of pain. A naturopathic doctor can help you to choose the type of herb, remedy, or essence that best supports your healing process.
  • Hydrotherapy can do wonders for joint pain.
  • Craniosacral therapy is particularly effective in reducing tension and restrictions in the fascia (connective tissue), which weaves through, envelops, and binds together all the cells, tissues, organs, muscles, and other structures such as blood and lymph vessels, meridians (energy pathways of the body), and nerves.
  • Energetic unwinding of the spine, joints & muscles intuitively blends craniosacral therapy with acupressure and soft tissue work, thus gently supporting and speeding up the recovery process.

Until the next natural healing perspective blog…

To Your Health