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Causes and Treatments for Pain and Stiffness in Your Shoulder

Dr. Daniel Silver - Silver Orthopedics January 16, 2017

At Silver Orthopedic Center in Encino, we see a lot of patients who are experiencing new onset pain and/or stiffness in their shoulders. While any type of trauma or injury can lead to pain and stiffness in the shoulder, often times this type of orthopedic condition seems to arise out of nowhere.

Most pain and stiffness in the shoulder - without an obvious cause - is typically due to inflammation. Inflammation in the shoulder results in most cases from repetitive motions. Any type of motion which is repeated over and over can cause wear and tear on the ligaments, muscles and joints.

For example, even such seemingly innocuous movements as cleaning the house (dusting, vacuuming, etc.), or repetitive office work (computer tasks, writing, reaching, lifting, etc.) can result in pain and stiffness in the shoulder, making it particularly painful when trying to reach your arms overhead, for example.

Anatomy of The Shoulder & Shoulder Injuries

The basic structure of the shoulder consists of a ball and socket joint which is held together by ligaments and muscles. There are also small sacks of fluid between the layers of muscles, ligaments and the socket. Anytime the socket, the muscles, or the ligaments are used in a repetitive manner, there is the possibility that the overuse will lead to inflammation. Once inflamed, pain and stiffness in the shoulder follows suit.

The wear and tear on the delicate structures can lead to specific injuries such as bursitis. Bursitis is a condition in which the aforementioned fluid filled sac (bursa), becomes inflamed and/or irritated. Another common, specific orthopedic condition resulting from repetitive movements of the shoulder is a rotator cuff tear.

In cases of bursitis and rotator cuff tears, Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley patients understandably try to avoid using the shoulder, because of the pain. Unfortunately, this becomes a proverbial "catch-22", in that reluctance to move the painful shoulder, then leads to stiffness. So, what then is the best treatment for pain in the shoulder caused by repetitive movements?

Treatment for Shoulder Pain and Stiffness in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles

As a long-established Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley Orthopedic Surgeon, my suggested mode of at-home treatment generally follows this plan.
  • Minimize repetitive motions. You may try switching arms, if you believe for example that shoulder motions which are repeated in activities such as cleaning the house are to blame for your shoulder pain. Or, just give yourself a break, and have someone help you to accomplish these daily tasks.
  • Try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as Aspirin, Aleve, or Motrin. Be sure that you're in good enough health, to take these medications, and be sure they are not contraindicated with any medications you're currently taking.
  • Try icing, or heating the irritated shoulder to determine which brings you the most relief from pain.
  • Continue to use the shoulder, but not in the same repetitive motion. Try simply lifting your arm up and down, and stretching forward to keep the shoulder limber and prevent stiffness.
If these at-home-treatments for shoulder pain and/or stiffness don't alleviate your pain, it is time to visit an Orthopedic Surgeon, who will likely recommend X-rays, and may refer you to physical therapy. At Silver Orthopedics, in more severe cases where the pain is significant, a combination injection of anesthetic and cortisone derivative will work wonders to help expedite the healing.

In instances where these minimally invasive or noninvasive treatments still do not bring relief from the pain and stiffness in your shoulder, an MRI will be necessary to determine if a manipulation of the affected area using general anesthetic is required. In the most severe cases, arthroscopic surgery will be the only solution, for treating shoulder pain and stiffness. Fortunately, these types of injuries of the shoulder respond incredibly well to this type of surgery.

With offices in Encino and Los Angeles, Dr. Daniel Silver, founder of Silver Orthopedics, has performed tens of thousands of arthroscopic surgeries during his 30+ years in the field of orthopedics. With specialties in the areas of knee, shoulder, elbow, ankle and hip surgeries, Dr. Silver brings unmatched experience to the operating room, resulting in predictable, positive results for his patients. As a general orthopedist, Dr. Silver's patients' injuries vary widely, as do the treatments he provides. His primary objective at Silver Orthopedics is to provide the most practical and proven treatments available, while causing the least disruption to patients' lives.

Contact us today online or by calling 818-784-9593 to schedule an appointment.