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Stiffness, Tightness When Reaching Overhead?

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By: Jeremy Schain, DPT, CSCS

Many people at some point during their lives will experience episodes of shoulder pain. Quite frequently, a subsequent scan of the internet or a visit to the doctor will conclude with a vague diagnosis of ‘rotator cuff tendonitis’ or ‘impingement.’ While these words may or may not reflect the correct cause of the painful symptoms, many people do not know the meaning of these terms. Furthermore, and arguably more important, what actually causes these conditions, how are they treated and how are they prevented?

Shoulder pain often is the result of poor mechanics of the glenohumeral joint or the ball and socket that of the shoulder. This can result in pinching of one of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, a condition called shoulder impingement. Overuse of the shoulder with poor mechanics can lead to inflammation of the tendons that cross that shoulder joint. This is known as tendonitis. Both conditions can be very painful and lead to restricted motion, pain with activities that require reaching and general weakening of the shoulder.

Another common cause of shoulder pain and loss of function can be from a condition called adhesive capsulitis, more common known as frozen shoulder. While there are many potential causative factors including trauma to the shoulder, viral infections, hormonal changes and more, the true cause of adhesive capsulitis is unknown. It occurs most commonly in women between the ages of 40 and 60 and can be extremely debilitating. Symptoms can sometimes last close to a full year. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Progressive, painful and severe loss of motion
  • Stiffness in the shoulder
  • General inability to reach

Shoulder pain is not something that should be ignored. Symptoms can quickly progress from a manageable level to a state that requires surgery if not addresses properly. Physical therapy can often prevent the need for surgical intervention. Physical therapy combines manual techniques along with a guided program of mechanical correction and strengthening. If you or someone you know has been suffering from shoulder pain, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300 and we would be happy to help you get back to your pain-free lifestyle. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you. 

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