Shoulder and Arm Pain
After a few sets of tennis, or an exercise session at the gym,
your arm or shoulder suddenly feels stiff. Perhaps a twinge
occurs with a specific movement. Maybe you woke up one morning
with your head in an odd position. Perhaps the simple task of
brushing your hair caused pain.
Does this sound like you? This description is more common than
you think. In many cases, the cause of these symptoms resides in
the neck and upper back regions along with the surrounding
muscles. If left untreated, the irritation and inflammation
continues to grow, causing the pain to become worse. And, as the
pain becomes worse, the arm and shoulder motion becomes less and
What causes shoulder and arm pain?
The cause of many instances of shoulder or arm pain is obvious.
You do something to injure the arm or shoulder and immediately
feel pain. Or you begin feeling the pain a day or so later. You
may have broken a bone or dislocated your shoulder. Perhaps you
strained tendons or ligaments by carrying too much weight for
too long, by lifting something that was too heavy, overreaching
or overexerting your arm--as when playing sports when you're out
of shape--or by keeping your arm in an awkward position, or even
by sleeping on the shoulder. The resulting pain may range from
an annoying ache to acute pain that makes it hard for you to use
the injured arm. Fortunately, the majority of such injuries are
But there are other, less-obvious causes of shoulder or arm
pain. Each is distinguished by where it is felt, whether it
comes on suddenly or over time, when it is at its worst, if the
pain extends to other joints in your body, and if other
symptoms--such as swelling, numbness, tingling, fever, fatigue,
and insomnia--accompany the pain. The causes of shoulder and arm
pain include tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis, and gout. Such
pain may also result from a reaction to medications such as
penicillin, anti-anxiety drugs, and oral contraceptives.
Whiplash injuries, common in auto accidents, can also cause
shoulder and arm pain.
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 upper
spine or "trigger points" in the back, which are particularly
responsive to chiropractic spinal adjustments designed to treat
What can chiropractic do?
Your chiropractor will examine you and conduct diagnostic tests
to determine exactly what is causing your shoulder or arm pain.
Because the causes and the seriousness of different conditions
are so varied, it is important to pinpoint the cause and begin
the most appropriate treatment. He or she will discover if your
problem is mild and transitory or serious and likely to trouble
you for a long time. A broken bone cannot be treated in the same
manner as bursitis or tendonitis. Arthritis and gout call for
different care than pain originating in nerves supplying the
shoulder and arm. Your chiropractor will decide which treatment
will be best for you and if referral to a specialist will be
Chiropractic can be successfully employed to deal with so-called
frozen shoulder, a severe inflammation technically known as
adhesive capsulitis. Chiropractors are accustomed to relieving
painful trigger points between the spine and shoulder.
Chiropractors can help you modify your habits and lifestyle to
protect yourself from arm and shoulder injuries and ailments.
If a spinal condition is found on examination and x-ray, gentle
chiropractic adjustments may be used to help restore proper
alignment for the spine. This alignment takes pressure off the
affected nerves, and in many cases, lessens the pain. Physical
therapy may also be used to restore proper muscle tone and
balance to the surrounding areas. The combination of these two
types of treatment has been known to give the patient the best
opportunity for improvement while still using a conservative
approach to health. Of course, if your chiropractor notices
anything unusual, a referral will be made to the appropriate
health care provider.