Osteopath for Shoulder Pain


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Shoulder pain is a common problem treated by osteopathy. There are a number of different reasons that you might develop shoulder pain and your pain could last for a few days or a number of years and could range in its severity. Shoulder pain may also form part of your symptoms if you suffer from fibromyalgia.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is often caused by spending larger periods of time sitting at desks, typing on the computer or watching the television as these activities place strain on your shoulders, especially if you have bad posture (known as hunching). If you play rugby and/or cricket and suffer from shoulder pain, then it could be caused by the strain put on your shoulder whilst you play your chosen sport. For rugby players this happens during tackling (and scrumming) and for cricketers this occurs during batting.

If you are an athlete of a number of sports, then you may find that you overstretch your shoulder ligaments so that you develop shoulder instability. This may give you the feeling that your shoulder is dislocated even when it isn’t and could inhibit your enjoyment of your sport. Dislocating your shoulder will often initiate a period of shoulder pain and the more often you dislocate your shoulder, the more often it will dislocate! This is because you develop chronic shoulder instability when your ligaments heal (as they will often heal too loosely) so it becomes easier for the ball of your shoulder joint to come out of its socket. 

Shoulder pain can be caused by inflammation in the shoulder joint as well as damage to the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Depending on the nature of the damage or inflammation, your osteopath will either be able to treat you straight away or give you advice about any additional professional service that you require (such as surgery) before using osteopathy to help with your after care.

In addition, a number of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis or arthritis can increase you susceptibility to shoulder pain and damage. Arthritis could also cause you to develop pain in your shoulder joint and you may also experience pain if you suffer from other bone disorders or develop an infection within these areas. Very rarely your shoulder pain could be caused by a tumour.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Shoulder Pain Using Osteopathy

If you suffer from osteoporosis (or osteopenia) your osteopath will want to treat you using a more gentle method to avoid causes further degradation to your bones. Whatever your diagnosis, at the end of your osteopathic visit your osteopath will probably want to take a few minutes to talk to you about ways that you can improve your posture and your lifestyle to reduce the frequency and severity of your shoulder pain.

There is a large possibility that your shoulder pain will be due to bursitis (or rotator cuff tendonitis) as this is a common diagnosis. Tendonitis and/or Bursitis occur when inflammation causes an impingement on either the rotator cuff tendons or the bursa that surrounds them. Often these two events occur simultaneously causing your symptoms to be known as impingement syndrome. Impingement describes the narrowing of the space where your tendons and bursa are located which restricts their movements and consequently causes you pain.

Your osteopath may diagnose your shoulder pain as being caused due to your rotator cuff tendon having become separated from your bone (a condition known as rotator cuff tear). This condition can require surgery to treat and your osteopath will be able to advice you if surgery is necessary as well as treat you post operatively to aid your swift recovery.

If you suffer from adhesive capsulitis then your shoulder will feel painful and stiff (which is why it is commonly known as “frozen shoulder”). Your osteopath will want to concentrate on treatment that stretches the ligaments, tendons and muscles although they will also work on your spine and rib cage to increase your mobility. Manipulation of your shoulder joint by your osteopath will act to loosen up your soft tissues, reduce your stiffness, reduce your pain and increase you range of movement.

Your osteopath will be able to diagnose any chronic instability within your shoulder joint (either due to overstretching or a previous dislocation). Instability is treated using massage and manipulation to build the support back up around your shoulder joint. Your osteopath may also suggest some exercises for you to do at home to continue to build up your muscles around your shoulder. This is a very common diagnosis if you have a prior dislocation of the shoulder joint.

Shoulder Dislocations and Shoulder Separations Treated by Osteopathy

A shoulder separation is often confused with a shoulder dislocation but the two describe different anatomical problems and your osteopath will be able to diagnose both of these conditions. In a dislocation the arm bone (humerus) comes out of the socket that is made up of two bones the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collar bone (clavicle). In a shoulder separation, the shoulder blade and the collar bone move closer together consequently causing a disruption to the shoulder socket. Shoulder separations are rated by their severity (and how far down your collar bone has moved) starting at type I which is the least serious and is often only felt as pain. Type I and type II (where a raised area is often seen in the shoulder) are the most common types and are thus most often seen by osteopaths as more severe types may require surgery.

Immediately after your shoulder separation or shoulder dislocation, your osteopath will probably advise you to rest the joint, ice it and take anti-inflammatory medication. However, gentle osteopathic treatment can be used to aid your recovery by stimulating the blood supply and nerve supply to your shoulder. Osteopathy will also help to re-stabilise your shoulder ligaments, tendons and muscles to reduce your risk of developing chronic instability. 


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