The shoulder is made up of scapula (shoulder blade), collarbone, and humerus (upper arm). Being a crucial joint of our body, the shoulder is subjected to a wide range of movements, therefore, making it highly prone to injuries or strain. However, an injury, be it external or internal, is not the only culprit behind this most commonly experienced health problem. Certain diseases and infections affecting the different areas of the body (gallbladder, cervical spine, lungs, heart, liver, etc.) could be the reasons behind shoulder pain―the pain of this nature also being known as 'referred pain'.
Shoulder pain is something that we all have experienced at some points in our lives. In fact, it is one such symptom that could have a wide range of diagnosis, often being misdiagnosed repeatedly before coming to a final conclusion. The following section gives you a list of some of the common causes that may be behind you experiencing a sharp pain in your right shoulder. Though, our first reaction to the pain would be very casual―taking it to be as something that will go on its own―to your surprise, that is not always the case.
Common Causes of Right Shoulder Pain
The causes vary widely from being avoidable, self-controllable, to being highly serious in nature. Some of the commonly known causes are listed as under.
Bad Workstation Setup
The setup of workstation (placement of the computer mouse) might result into pain in the right shoulder (if you are a right-handed person). One should check whether the placement of mouse is proper and make the necessary adjustments. The right shoulder pain and arm movements are thus interrelated.
Being a prominent joint in the body and constantly on the move, problems including frozen shoulder, dislocation, muscle strain, shoulder joint instability (head of the upper-arm bone coming out from the shoulder socket), tendonitis (wearing down of the tendon), bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion in between joint bones), shoulder impingement (upper side of the shoulder blade adds pressure on the soft tissues beneath), tears in the tendon and the rotator cuff, and fractures, may cause this problem.
Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints of the body, causing pain, inflammation, and stiffness in the affected area. There are different types of arthritis namely: Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, infectious arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
There is a misconception that arthritis can only affect the elderly. But, even children suffer from it. The symptoms of arthritis include warmth and redness in the affected joint, difficulty in movement, weakness, tenderness, and inflammation in the joints―shoulders being no exception!
Most of the time, neck pain and shoulder pain are closely associated. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), "Some people have neck pain that may radiate into the shoulder and arm. This type of pain is often caused by an injury near the root of a spinal nerve. A nerve root injury is sometimes referred to as a 'pinched' nerve. The medical term for this condition is cervical radiculopathy." At times, cervical radiculopathy may lead to pain that radiates from the neck, and extends to the shoulder and arm.
Shoulder pain is one highly prominent early symptoms of lung problems including pleurisy and lung cancer! Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleura, which is a membrane that covers the lungs (visceral pleura). There is another type that covers the inner side of the chest cavity, known as parietal pleura. Pain may also affect your back, apart from the shoulders.
On the other hand, lung cancer accounts for the maximum number of cancer deaths in the US, and one of the early signs of this deadly condition is a nagging, dull shoulder pain that grows worse with time. Note that the shoulder pain in this case would be unrelated to coughing, which is another prominent symptom of this type of cancer.
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ, mostly located at the right side of the abdomen. It collects bile, a fluid that helps in the process of digestion. When the bile concentration has too much of cholesterol or bilirubin, it crystallizes and forms stones. The formation of gallstones can display various symptoms, pain being a prominent one. Usually, the pain radiates from the center of your abdomen, below the breastbone, and travels to the back, in between the shoulder blades, eventually affecting the right shoulder.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The shoulder is examined for problems such as weakness, deformity, tenderness, muscle wasting, and the like. The different tests conducted for shoulder pain include: CT (Computerized Tomography) scan, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, and EMG (Electromyogram) test. CT scan and MRI scan are the procedures commonly used by doctors for examining the soft tissues in the shoulder joints, while EMG test helps in finding out the nature of damage caused to nerves. An X-ray test may also be advised for further investigation.
The treatment would depend upon the underlying cause. Ice compressions won't work if the cause is something like arthritis or gallstones. Based on the cause, shoulder pain is dealt with either non-invasive or surgical treatment methods. Non-surgical treatment methods include the use of sling (supporting bandage) and performing a few exercises for shoulder pain which help improve the flexibility and strength of muscles. Medications such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are recommended by doctors to provide physical relief from pain. Corticosteroid injection is helpful for reducing inflammation. Arthroscopic surgery is used to diagnose or detect shoulder problems that are often missed out in routine testing. This type of surgery involves the use of tiny instruments and small incisions.
As normal as the term 'shoulder pain' may sound, you must have now gauged that avoidance of this symptom is nowhere close to normal. Unless you are aware that the reason is a definite injury, or has resulted from a bad posture, be quick in getting yourself thoroughly checked by a trusted physician. Early diagnosis has saved many from being exposed to severe complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.