Your shoulder joint is the most complex, flexible, and mobile joint in your body. It is because of this complexity that you are able to perform many different movements and activities. However, this ability to move also makes the shoulder particularly fragile. Anatomically, the shoulder involves three different bones – the scapula (shoulder blade), the clavicle (collar bone), and the humerus (upper arm bone) – many connecting ligaments, and approximately 20 different muscles. The main joint, the glenohumeral joint, is connected by ligaments and a group of muscles (and their tendon attachments) knows as the rotator cuff. Problems with the rotator cuff are common causes of shoulder pain and disability.
As with other joints, shoulder problems can be caused by trauma, mechanical dysfunction due to imbalances in the muscles, or by wear and tear of the tissues surrounding the joint. Arthritic changes do occur in the shoulder joint, though not as commonly as the weight-bearing joints of the spine, hips, and knees. Overuse of the shoulder in sports such as tennis and golf or other repetitive activities can cause the muscles to become overly tight or strained. People who sit too much in a slouched position or with the shoulders held forward are also at risk of developing imbalances in the shoulder muscles causing some to be too tight or too weak. This causes dysfunction in the normal mechanics of the joint.
Shoulder and arm pain may be referred from some other region of the body, as when someone suffering a heart attack feels pain in the left shoulder and down the left arm. The pain may also be referred from nerves associated with the joints in the neck, or cervical spine. The nerves leaving the neck innervate the joints and muscles of the shoulder, arm, and hand. If there is a problem with the neck, pain can be referred down the arm all the way to the hand.
Rotator Cuff Syndrome
One or more of the rotator cuff tendons that hold your arm in place can be inflamed or torn by injury or overuse. Regardless of the reason, pain and limitation of normal motion will eventually develop. The severity can vary from a slight catching or pain to an almost complete inability to use the shoulder.
Another common problem, especially among middle age women is “frozen shoulder.” This often debilitating condition occurs when the ligaments and tendons of the glenohumeral joint get so irritated that adhesions develop making the joint almost stuck together. This results in an extreme limitation of shoulder motion and pain that makes it difficult for some individuals to even get dressed! Left alone, frozen shoulder can take several years to resolve and therefore needs attention by a professional such as a chiropractor.
The treatment of most conditions of the shoulder is basically the same. One must correct muscle imbalance with either soft tissue massage or electrotherapy modalities, restore proper mobility to the shoulder joints and, of course, correct any misalignments in the spine. Special rehabilitation exercises advised by your chiropractor are also essential in order for a full and fast recovery.