From waving at a friend, to driving your car, to carrying items you need, your shoulders are necessary for many daily tasks. And when you start having shoulder problems, you can name every one of those tasks!
Shoulder pain can make everything more difficult and time-consuming, and over-the-counter remedies may not help enough.
What Shoulder Pain Treatment Options Are Available?
Diagnosing your shoulder pain is the first step in seeking treatment. If you’ve already been to a doctor about your pain, they may have suggested one of the following options:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). These are usually sold over the counter and include popular remedies like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Many shoulder conditions involve inflammation, so relieving that inflammation sounds like a good idea. However, NSAIDs don’t treat the root cause of your inflammation, only the symptoms. This is fine for short-term issues that get better on their own but is less helpful when you develop chronic shoulder pain. Over time, NSAIDs can increase your risk of excessive bleeding, digestive issues, and sometimes kidney problems (especially in patients who are older or have other conditions). At the same time, NSAIDs don’t always provide enough pain relief, either.
- Corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatories, and an injection into the shoulder may offer fast relief. Steroids might provide more complete relief than NSAIDs – but they are also not a long-term solution. The use of corticosteroids can depress your immune system in the short term, increasing the risk of infection while contributing to bone loss in the long term. For these reasons, regular use is not healthy or recommended.
- Physical rehabilitation. This is an excellent treatment for many patients. A physical rehab specialist will teach you exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your shoulder. They can also help you with occupational issues that may have caused your pain in the first place. However, the usefulness of physical therapy is often dependent on the cause of your pain. Some conditions do not respond as well to physical rehab, and you may need other treatments.
- Surgery. If you have a soft tissue tear, and it has not improved enough with other treatments, your doctor might recommend surgery. Tears in the rotator cuff (a set of four tendons that work together to cover the upper arm bone) are frequently cited as reasons for shoulder surgery. For some people, this surgery can be very effective, but for others, risks such as infection and permanent stiffness outweigh the possible benefits.
Are These My Only Options?
No. At Optimum Health Rehab, we work to find the underlying cause or causes of your shoulder pain and treat them without risky surgery or medications that cause problematic side effects.
Here are some of the treatment options we may recommend after carefully evaluating and diagnosing the source of your pain:
Some people ask us, “Isn’t that just for bad backs?” The answer is no.
While we certainly treat many back problems, too, chiropractic adjustment can be helpful for other types of pain. There are two reasons:
- Shoulder pain can be caused by spinal misalignments. Sometimes the shoulder itself is not the problem, but you may be having referred pain from your back, or misaligned vertebrae could be entrapping a nerve that leads to the shoulder. By correcting the misalignment, we can often reduce or relieve your shoulder pain.
- The shoulder itself can be misaligned, and we can adjust other joints as well.
Before performing an adjustment, we will review your imaging (X-rays, MRI, CT scan, etc.) and conduct a brief physical exam. If we find misaligned vertebrae, we will push them back into place using a sudden, controlled force.
This only takes a few seconds and won’t cause pain or discomfort.
As we discussed earlier, physical rehab can be an excellent solution for some types of shoulder pain. Your rehab specialist will walk you through exercises to target the muscles or ligaments involved, then recommend a schedule for working on these exercises at home.
You will still meet with your rehab specialist regularly so they can see your progress and prescribe new exercises as needed. However, the work you do at home is crucial in promoting the healing process.
If you find yourself unable to do this work for any reason, please talk to your physical rehab specialist – in most cases, we can find a solution, such as temporary pain relief injections that allow you to move more freely.
Another key aspect of physical rehab is learning to prevent more problems with your shoulder in the future. Your rehab specialist will help you work out what activities might be causing or worsening your shoulder pain and offer ideas to reduce strain.
For instance, they might advise you on a different way to carry your bags or other heavy objects. Or they could suggest ways to reduce the number of times you have to reach upward for items at work.
Additionally, some people experience shoulder pain due to issues with posture, such as leaning over a desk or keyboard at an awkward angle all day. Your rehab specialist can help you revise your posture to relieve the pain.
Occasionally we meet people with persistent pain from a soft tissue or nerve injury that doesn’t respond to other therapies. When this happens, we may consider if the patient is a good candidate for platelet-rich plasma injections or PRP therapy.
Platelet-rich plasma is removed from your blood using a centrifuge, which spins around and separates a blood sample into its components.
The plasma is a liquid that carries platelets, proteins, and healing compounds, which can be further split into platelet-rich plasma and platelet-poor plasma. Because the platelet-rich type is most effective for healing injuries, we separate this out and use it for PRP treatment.
The second phase of this therapy is simple. Using an ultrasound to guide the needle, we inject the platelet-rich plasma into the affected area, where it goes to work healing the injury.
For best results, you should take it easy for a few days after the injection, and we will let you know when you can resume physical therapy exercises to enhance your recovery.
Many people return to work shortly after their injection, but you should avoid activities that strain the shoulder until we tell you otherwise. You may begin feeling pain relief in a few weeks to a few months.
Should I See a Doctor About Shoulder Pain?
The sooner you get help for your shoulder pain, the easier it will be to treat and the less time you will spend in pain. However, doctors aren’t always able to effectively treat shoulder pain, or they may recommend a surgery you aren’t sure about.
If you’ve been advised to have shoulder surgery, we recommend seeking a second opinion to learn if there are any alternatives you can try first.
At Optimum Health Rehab, we’re experts at treating pain and understanding how shoulder issues develop.
Whether you’ve already seen a doctor or not, we can assess your shoulder pain, diagnose the underlying cause or causes, and create a complete treatment plan to help you get back to your life. Please contact us today at (770)439-6997 to schedule a consultation about your shoulder pain.