Shoulder Pain in St. Louis. Those who experience shoulder pain know how debilitating it can be. It makes everything from brushing your teeth to serving an ace on the tennis court painful, frustrating, and in some cases impossible. But you do not need to live the rest of your life with pain and limited shoulder movement. At Axes PT in St. Louis, our experienced and licensed physical therapists are experts at developing personalized treatment plans, based on evidence, to get you back to optimal movement health and the activities you love most. Let us help you turn shoulder pain from a daily occurrence into a thing of the past. Request an appointment online or call the location nearest you.
How Does the Shoulder Work? | Shoulder Pain in St. Louis
The shoulder is one of the human body’s largest and most complex joints. In reality, it is a complex of four joints:
- The glenohumeral (GH) joint is a ball and socket joint where the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the socket of the glenoid. Because the ball is 3-4 times larger than the socket, it is the most mobile joint in the body.
- The acromioclavicular (AC) joint connects the clavicle (collarbone) to the acromion, the part of the scapula (shoulder blade) that is the highest part of the shoulder. A gliding joint, it allows for additional rotation of the shoulder blade.
- The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is a plane-style synovial joint located where the clavicle meets the sternum (breastbone) at the base of the neck. As the only joint that connects the arm to the body, it coordinates the movement of the upper limb with the core of your body.
- The scapulothoracic (ST) “joint” is not a true anatomical joint, but rather a “floating” joint, as it does not have ligaments connecting it to bone. It attaches and allows movement between the shoulder blade and the part of rib cage at the back of our bodies.
In addition to those four joints, the shoulder is made up of:
- the four muscles of the rotator cup covering the head of the humerus, which power movement and stabilize the ball of the humerus within the shoulder socket
- the shoulder capsule, a soft tissue sac that surrounds and protects the shoulder
- the four shoulder ligaments which help connect bone to bone and help reinforce the capsule
- the biceps tendon and rotator cuff tendons which connect muscle to bone
- the brachial plexus nerves that send motor messages from the brain to muscles and sensory information (like pain) from the joints back to the brain
- the blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to the shoulder
In order for the shoulder to function properly the entire complex system must function well. Blood must flow freely to the shoulder to keep oxygen levels and muscles strong and repair minor damage. The muscles must have adequate strength and flexibility, the tendons connecting them to the bones must be intact and strong, the ligaments connecting bones need to help maintain structure, and the nerves need to have a strong and secure connection to the brain. When any one of the parts of the shoulder is damaged, inflamed, or otherwise irritated, it can lead to a breakdown of the whole system, and anywhere from nagging to intense shoulder pain or loss of function. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or any other symptoms of a shoulder injury, contact Axes’ physical therapists for a free injury screening.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of circumstances, from sports injuries to falls, a work injury from overuse to old age. Below are the most common underlying conditions that lead to shoulder pain:
- Bursitis — The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion bones, tendons, and muscles in and around your joints and act as shock absorbers and reduce friction. Bursitis occurs when the bursae become inflamed after overuse, often occurs in association with rotator cuff tendinitis, and can make basic activities like getting dressed incredibly painful.
- Tendinitis — Tendinitis is typically caused by inflammation or irritation of a tendon. It typically falls into one of two categories:
- Acute: The result of trauma, excessive throwing, or other overhead activities common in some sports and occupations, such as swimming or lifting boxes overhead.
- Chronic: The result of degenerative conditions or wear and tear, or general weakness as we age.
Symptoms include a dull ache, tenderness, and mild swelling.
- Rotator Cuff Tear — These can also be acute, like falling on an outstretched arm, or more chronic in nature. They usually start with fraying and then tear. A partial thickness tear often goes unnoticed and people live with them unknowingly. Full-thickness tears, where the tendon is completely detached from the bone, do not heal by themselves and often require surgery. Symptoms include pain with specific motions, pain when sleeping, and a cracking sensation with certain movements.
- Shoulder Impingement — Impingement occurs when your acromion (outer edge of your shoulder blade) rubs against or pinches the rotator cuff and bursae. It is often the result of rotator cuff swellings because of an injury. Shoulder impingement is most common in people who play sports or are otherwise active.
- Shoulder Instability — This occurs when the humerus is forced out of the shoulder socket, and also can happen suddenly or from overuse. A dislocation can be partial, coming in and out of the socket, or complete when the bone completely comes out of the socket. It often causes or is the result of injury to the supporting soft tissue of the shoulder. Chronic instability will cause shoulder pain and unsteadiness when performing certain motions.
- Arthritis — While there are many types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the condition that typically affects the shoulder. It occurs when the cartilage cushioning the ends of our bones breaks down. Common causes include old age, repeated trauma, and overuse. Arthritis cannot be cured, but you can find effective pain management techniques with St. Louis physical therapists.
- Shoulder Fractures — The humerus, collarbone, and shoulder blade are the most commonly broken bones in the shoulder. They are often the result of falling from a height or high-energy collisions such as a car accident. The shoulder pain is usually severe, along with substantial swelling and bruising.
- Axillary Nerve Injuries or Brachial Plexus Injuries — Nerve damage in the shoulder can occur when nerves are compressed, when scar tissue blocks their electric signals, or the nerves rupture or burst. These injuries can cause shoulder pain, stingers, weakness, tingling, numbness, and loss of feeling in your shoulder, arm, or hand. They are usually the result of high-impact trauma but can also occur because of overuse.
At times, one injury leads to another, for example a dislocation causing damage to the nerves. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, one of our safe, free injury screenings in St. Louis may help you discover the underlying cause. If you’ve sustained a severe injury or have severe shoulder pain, a St. Louis physician may use a physical examination, an X-Ray, an MRI, a CT scan, arthrogram, and/or arthroscopy to discover the cause. For most injuries or conditions that cause shoulder pain, a personalized treatment plan with licensed physical therapists and movement health specialists in St. Louis can be an effective way to get you back to optimal movement health, a pain-free daily life, and the things you love to do the most.
Treating Your Shoulder Pain in St. Louis
Your personalized and evidence-backed physical therapy treatment plan may include:
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization to identify degenerative tissue and soft tissue restrictions, break down scar tissue, and treat the affected area.
- Pre- and post-surgical rehabilitation, coordinated together with your doctor, if you need surgery to relieve your shoulder pain
- Kinesio Taping® to provide support for your shoulder and allow you to participate in sports or work while your body heals
- Blood flow restriction training to improve strength while reducing overall stress on the shoulder
- Trigger point dry needling to attack harder-to-reach damaged or irritated soft tissue to stimulate blood flow and encourage the body’s natural healing processes
- Posture correction to make sure you do not contribute to your injuries or heal improperly
- Injury prevention so you and your shoulder and stay healthy and active
- Other safe, effective exercises to increase and maintain your mobility
Missouri Law requires a prescription for physical therapy, so it’s important to speak to your St. Louis doctor to see if physical therapy is safe and an effective treatment option for your shoulder pain. Our professional physical and occupational therapists are responsible and work closely with your primary care physician to make sure you are getting the care that fits into your overall treatment plan and is safe for your condition.
St. Louis Shoulder Pain | Axes Physical Therapy
Optimal movement health is essential to not only carrying out daily tasks with ease, but to doing the things we love. At Axes, we focus on patient results and positive outcomes for our St. Louis patients by creating evidence-backed treatment plans based on your injury, pain level, age, and desired activity level. Do not wait to get back to the activities you love and a pain-free life. Request an appointment online or call the location nearest you.