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Can Shoulder Pain Cause Arm Weakness

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Most Common Reasons You Cannot Lift Your Shoulder

Shoulder, arm pain with weakness and numbness.

Here are the most common reasons why you may not be able to move your arm. While there can be neurological reasons, like Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, most of you cannot move the arm or shoulder because of pain. The most common causes of shoulder pain and loss of motion are:

  • rotator cuff tendonitis
  • adhesive capsulitis or a frozen shoulder

The cause of your shoulder pain and the reason why it hurts will vary by age. Some problems are more common in different age groups. In younger athletes, tendonitis or inflammation of the rotator cuff is more common.

In middle age, rotator cuff tendinosis, calcific tendinitis, AC Joint arthritis, and a frozen shoulder are more common causes of pain.

Lets run through each of these individually.

Do Rotator Cuff Tears Affect Both Shoulders

Tears tend to occur on your dominant side, but can be on either side. Having a tear in one shoulder increases the likelihood of a tear in the opposite shoulder. You might not have shoulder pain on the opposite side, but tests may indicate a tear. The opposite may also be true: you may have a tear but have no pain or symptoms.

What Shoulder Problems Can Cause Rotator Cuff Weakness

Most causes of shoulder weakness and pain arent traumatic and develop over time. Youre probably familiar with the big causes of weakness but less familiar with other causes. Heres a list of the most common causes of shoulder weakness, keep in mind that its not an exhaustive list.

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis or tendinosis
  • Partial tears of the rotator cuff muscles
  • Complete tears of the rotator cuff muscles
  • Impingement syndrome of the supraspinatus muscle
  • Scapular dyskinesia and poor shoulder movement patterns
  • Moderate to severe shoulder arthritis
  • Adhesive capsulitis

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Diagnosis Of Treatment Of Cervical Radiculopathy

It is important for a medical professional to accurately diagnose cervical radiculopathy before starting treatment. Other conditions have similar symptoms but would require different treatments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Common nonsurgical treatments for cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Rest and/or activity modification

Is Your Upper Back Pain Related To Your Arm Numbness

Causes of Shoulder and Arm Pain and Weakness

When upper back or shoulder pain is accompanied by numbness in the arm, it can stem from a problem in the neck or shoulder that inflames a nerve going down the arm. Some people may have worsening upper back pain and arm numbness as the day goes on, whereas others may experience worse symptoms when waking up in the morning. Here are 6 potential causes.

A cervical herniated disc may cause numbness and weakness in the arm. Watch:Cervical Herniated Disc Video

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Causes Of Tingling And Pain In Arms And How Chiropractic Can Help

Shoulder/arm pain, numbness, or the ‘tingling’ sensation you feel can be caused by constriction of blood flow or nerve pressure somewhere between these body parts. When a nerve connecting to your shoulders or arms gets pinched, it can produce a sharp shooting pain radiating throughout the affected areas. Often, a person would experience these sensations on one part of the arm or shoulder, but it can affect both sides in some cases.

Numbness and tingling come in two forms, including paresthesia and dysesthesia. Paresthesia is what many individuals often describe as ‘pins and needles’ on the skin, or the unconscious feeling of your arm ‘falling asleep.’ Dysesthesia is another form of numbness and tingling but happens less often than paresthesia. It’s more severe and persistent, causing itching or pain resembling getting an electric shock, burning, or tightening.

Patients experiencing pain or numbness on their arms or shoulders often get misdiagnosed for carpal tunnel syndrome, where the issue may originate from a pinched or irritated nerve. Pinpointing the exact causes of numbness or tingling can be difficult. Still, with the help of running the proper set of tests, a healthcare professional can identify the precise root cause of the problem, which is vital for the treatment.

A chiropractor can help you pinpoint the issues and create a personalized treatment plan for your specific condition.

What We Might Do Next

One way to treat unexplained pains like these is with a local anaesthetic injection in the shoulder. If the arm pain disappears temporarily , its a good indication that the shoulder is indeed the culprit. We can then focus our treatment there and get to the root of your pain. On the other hand if the injection works for a little while and seems to be improving the arm pain, we could look to continue progress with some targeted physiotherapy.

Sometimes the best course of action is to monitor and manage the discomfort over the medium term, either with physical therapy or perhaps with a steroid injection every six to 12 months. But of course its also possible that the problem is beyond the reach of either physio or injections. When that happens, we can look at surgery options to stop the pain for good.

Have you been ignoring a long-running pain in your arm or shoulder? Dont feel as though you should put up with it forever! Book in to see your GP, or make an appointment with us direct. Well be very happy to help you find out whats happening, and how we can help you get back to normal.

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Apply Ice And Heat Packs

Pinched nerves are often related to inflammation. This can be easily relieved through hot and cold therapy. Doing so can increase the circulation of blood in the area and reduce the swelling.

Apply hot and cold packs alternately each time for at least 3 times a day.

Ice packs should be applied 15 minutes at a time, while heat packs can be applied for up to an hour.

What Are Common Rotator Cuff Symptoms

Numb Fingers, Arm Weakness and Shoulder Pain, THE Fix | Trevor Bachmeyer | SmashweRx

First things first: what is a rotator cuff? Your shoulder is made up of three bones: the humerus , the scapula , and the clavicle . Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. What keeps it neatly tucked away in your shoulder socket is a group of muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff.

We dont think about our rotator cuff when everything is working as it should. But any inflammation or partial or full tear can make performing daily activities very painful.

Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury may include:

  • Pain or tenderness when reaching overhead
  • Pain or tenderness when the arm is at rest
  • Pain that radiates down the arm
  • Arm and hand weakness

A rotator cuff injury can be because of a specific injury. For example, falling on an outstretched arm, a sudden jerking motion, or lifting something too heavy. As a result, rotator cuff problems are common among athletes and people whose jobs involve working with their hands and repetitive arm movements. A few of those occupations include construction, painting, carpentry, and decorating.

In addition, it is important to remember that our tendons naturally wear down as we age, especially in our dominant arm. According to the National Institutes of Health, rates of rotator cuff tears are as high as 80% in patients over 80.

While specific activities or accidents can lead to a sudden rotator cuff injury, more often than not, patients experiencing problems cant point to a specific reason other than normal wear and tear of the body.

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Causes Of Shoulder Bursitis

When a shoulder bursa gets irritated or injured, it responds by producing more synovial fluid in an attempt to protect itself and the surrounding tissues which leads to inflammation.

Shoulder bursitis is typically caused by:

  • Repetitive Friction: Repeated overhead movements such as racket sports, painting a ceiling, throwing and swimming can cause repeated micro-trauma to the bursa. This is the most common cause of shoulder bursitis
  • Injury: A sudden injury such as a fall onto the shoulder, or landing on an outstretched hand can lead to bleeding and inflammation of the bursa
  • Underlying Condition: Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or a bacterial infection can cause bursitis shoulder
  • Surrounding Structures: If the space surrounding the bursa is reduced, such as the subacromial space, more pressure is placed on the bursa and it gradually becomes inflamed. This can happen as a result of arthritis, poor posture, muscle imbalance or inflammation of other surrounding structures.

Whilst inflammation can develop in any of the bursae around the shoulder, the most common are subacromial bursitis at the front of the shoulder and scapulothoracic bursitis at back of the shoulder blade.

The subacromial bursa provides cushioning between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion, the front part of the shoulder blade that forms a sort of bridge over the tendons, in what is known as the subacromial space.

Pain Between The Shoulder And Elbow

In some cases, pain can be felt in both the area of the right shoulder and further down towards your right elbow. Some causes are:

  • Rotator cuff disease: Pain can begin to radiate from your shoulder into the side of your upper arm.
  • Torn rotator cuff: Shoulder pain may radiate down your arm to the area of the elbow.
  • Dislocated shoulder: The pain from a dislocated shoulder can radiate down the upper arm.
  • Upper arm fracture: A break in your upper arm can cause pain thats localized around the area of your shoulder and throughout your upper arm.
  • Frozen shoulder: Pain from a frozen shoulder may also spread into your right bicep.
  • Calcific tendinitis: Similarly to frozen shoulder, pain from calcific tendinitis can spread down into your bicep area.

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When To Contact A Medical Professional

Sudden left shoulder pain can sometimes be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain runs from your chest to the left jaw, arm or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.

Go to the hospital emergency room if you have just had a severe injury and your shoulder is very painful, swollen, bruised, or bleeding.

  • Shoulder pain with a fever, swelling, or redness
  • Problems moving the shoulder
  • Pain for more than 2 to 4 weeks, even after home treatment
  • Swelling of the shoulder

Why Is This Better Than Conventional Diagnosis

Shoulder Weakness or Numbness and Tingling in the Arms?

This live approach to diagnosis means that causes of arm & shoulder pain can be defined and ultimately confirmed so that misleading diagnoses caused by strange nerve links in the neck can be avoided. Subsequent endoscopic examination, with the patient awake, then leads the surgeon to the precise source of pain at the specified intervertebral level. This is in contrast to conventional diagnostic techniques that rely on pre-operative guesstimation based upon X-rays, MRI scans and CAT scans – and often result in the overkill of multiple level surgery performed to attempt a treatment catch all.

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Pain Around The Upper Arm And Shoulder

This happens when the pain is localized predominantly in the area of your shoulder and upper part of your humerus. The conditions that cause this can include:

  • Rotator cuff disease: Initially, pain is often felt at the front of the shoulder.
  • Torn rotator cuff: Tears in the rotator cuff can include pain that begins near the shoulder.
  • Dislocated shoulder: Pain from a shoulder dislocation is most acutely felt near the shoulder.
  • Broken collarbone: The pain from a broken collarbone can be felt close to the shoulder, particularly when you try to move your arm.
  • Frozen shoulder: This type of pain typically comes on gradually and feels dull and deep.
  • Calcific tendinitis: Pain due to calcific tendinitis can be severe and can come on suddenly, often in the morning.
  • Shoulder sprain: You can feel pain from a shoulder sprain not only in your shoulder, but also in the area of your upper arm and collarbone.
  • The pain due to a separated shoulder is felt around the shoulder and upper arm.
  • Shoulder osteoarthritis and RA: People with arthritis in their shoulder often feel a deep ache in their shoulder and upper arm.
  • Brachial neuritis: Pain from brachial neuritis is typically severe and most often happens in the area of the shoulder and upper arm.
  • Brachial plexus injury: Pain from a brachial plexus injury can happen around the shoulder and upper arm. It may be long lasting.

What Are Nonsurgical Treatments For Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator cuff tears do not heal on their own without surgery, but many patients can improve functionally and decrease pain with nonsurgical treatment by strengthening their shoulder muscles. Just because there is a tear, does not necessarily mean a surgery is needed. About eight out of 10 people with partial tears get better with nonsurgical treatments. It can take up to a year for the condition to improve.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • An arm sling and rest to give your shoulder time to heal. You may need to modify activities and stop certain work or sports for a period of time.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to minimize pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy to learn strengthening and stretching exercises.
  • Steroid injections to ease pain and swelling.

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Three Broad Categories Of Why You Cant Lift Your Arm

  • The first reason why you have difficulty lifting your arm is pain. Not all shoulder pain implies that something is torn. A painful rotator cuff due to tendonitis or bursitis will make it very challenging to lift your arm because it hurts too much. There are many possible reasons why that inflammation is present, and we will go into more depth on each down below. Inflammation is also the reason why you may have severe shoulder pain why trying to sleep.
  • The second reason you may have trouble moving your shoulder is that you injured or tore something. If you had a recent severe fall or injury, then you may have torn a tendon. If the tendon tears are large enough, that will cause significant weakness of the shoulder.
  • The third reason is neurological. Parsonage-Turner Syndrome is a rare cause of shoulder pain and weakness. We are not sure what causes it, but it often follows a viral illness. It starts with very severe pain but no loss of motion or weakness. Within a few weeks of onset, you will notice significant weakness around the shoulder. That weakness can be so severe that you have difficulty lifting the arm. Some patients with painful shoulder motion have an issue with their necks. Neck issues such as arthritis and pinched nerves can manifest as shoulder pain and weakness.
  • Losing the ability to move your shoulder is a common problem. Because of that, we are going to review the most common reasons that will cause:

    Pancoast Tumor Risk Factors

    Front of arm pain or weakness at bending elbow? Could be Biceps trigger points

    A risk factor is a characteristic or behavior that may increase the likelihood of developing a certain condition. The most common risk factor for Pancoast tumors is similar to that of other lung cancers: smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. Thats because tobacco smoke enables carcinogens to enter the lungs, which can trigger cells to grow and divide rapidly. When a cluster of abnormal cells gathers in the lungs, a Pancoast tumor can form.

    Pancoast tumors are also more commonly diagnosed in men and in people in their 50s. In the general medical community, research is still being conducted on why this is so.

    Pancoast tumors can affect anyone, including individuals who do not have any known risk factors for this cancer. Still, people with one or more risk factors should be particularly mindful to seek care for symptoms and receive appropriate treatment.

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    Is Shoulder Pain A Sign Of Lung Cancer

    Sharp shoulder or scapula pain are some of the most common symptoms of a Pancoast tumor, particularly in its early stages. The pain typically develops as the tumor impacts one or more of the nearby structures, such as the:

    • Ribs
    • Neck
    • Ulnar nerve, which runs from the side of the arm to the wrist
    • Branchial plexus, the nerve fibers that run downward from the spine and into the shoulder and arm
    • Parietal pleura, the highly sensitive outer layer of the membrane that lines the chest cavity.
    • Endothoracic fascia, the fibrous tissue that separates the chest wall from the diaphragm and the pleura

    Shoulder pain can be a symptom of other lung cancers besides Pancoast tumors, typically if a lung tumor presses against a particular nerve or if the cancer travels to the tissues or bones near the shoulder joint.

    Its important to note that shoulder pain is far more likely to be caused by an orthopedic condition, such as osteoarthritis or a rotator cuff injury, than lung cancer. Nevertheless, shoulder pain that persists for more than a few days should be evaluated by a medical professional. Shoulder discomfort that is related to lung cancer may worsen at night, be present while resting or occur without impacting range of motion. Lung cancer that is not classified as a Pancoast tumor may also cause a hacking cough, shortness of breath and wheezing, among other respiratory symptoms.

    Causes Of Shoulder Impingement

    When you lift your arm, the rotator cuff tendon passes through a narrow space at the top of your shoulder, known as the subacromial space.

    Shoulder impingement happens when the tendon rubs or catches on the bone at the top of this space, called the acromion.

    This can be caused by:

    • the tendon becoming swollen, thickened or torn this can be due to an injury, overuse of the shoulder or “wear and tear” with age
    • the fluid-filled sac found between the tendon and acromion becoming irritated and inflamed this can also be caused by an injury or overuse of the shoulder
    • the acromion being curved or hooked, rather than flat this tends to be something you’re born with
    • bony growths on the acromion these can develop as you get older

    Page last reviewed: 29 April 2020 Next review due: 29 April 2023

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