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Shoulder Pain Treatment in Seattle, WA

Shoulder Pain Treatment in Seattle, WAThe anatomy of the shoulder makes the joint inherently unstable, and therefore prone to dislocation and injury. As a result, shoulder pain is exceptionally common complaint, particularly in athletes and patients who perform repetitive upper body movement as part of their work.

Shoulder dislocation and damage to the joint's supporting components can make movement uncomfortable. Eventually, these damaged components can result in the development of osteoarthritis, a painful and debilitating condition that deteriorates healthy bone and cartilage.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

Like the hip joint, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, with the main shoulder joint being comprised of two bones: the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone). The humeral head rests within a shallow cavity on the scapula known as the glenoid. These bones form the glenohumeral joint, which is responsible for raising and rotating the upper arm through a wide range of motion.

The glenohumeral joint is inherently unstable because of the sizes of the ball and socket components. The humeral head is larger than the glenoid socket that holds it, making it easily dislocated. To help protect the joint and provide additional stabilization, a piece of cartilage, known as the labrum, circles the rim of the glenoid and lines the surface of the joint. By providing a smooth surface, the humerus can glide within the glenoid with minimal friction.

To stabilize the shoulder joint, a group of muscles, known as the rotator cuff, connects the scapula to the humerus, and effectively ensures that the joint is held together tightly. The rotator cuff also helps activate the shoulder joint, and is responsible for actions that involve raising the arm (abduction). Ligaments also attach to the joint to provide additional stabilization during movement.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

When any of the shoulder's components are damaged, pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness can result. A traumatic injury, such as a football tackle or a fall onto an outstretched arm, can cause the muscles, cartilage, and tendons supporting the shoulder joint to tear, resulting in pain and dysfunction.

Some injuries (such as minor labral tears or small rotator cuff tears) may heal on their own, depending on the severity of the injury and the patient's activity level. Conservative treatments, including physical therapy and rehabilitation, anti-inflammatory drugs, and injection therapy can effectively manage musculoskeletal pain and eliminate pain over a period of 6–8 months; however, cases of severe arthritis may require surgical intervention to successfully reduce pain.

Conservative Shoulder Pain Treatment Options

Patients experiencing shoulder pain have a number of nonsurgical options for managing joint pain and symptoms associated with arthritis:

The majority of patients with shoulder pain should see some success with these treatment options; however, patients should note that these treatments only manage symptoms of pain, versus treat the condition itself.

Because the shoulder's components are expected to heal on their own, nonsurgical treatment takes time, and requires that the patient immobilize the joint to eliminate pain associated with movement. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises focus on strengthening the supporting components, while injection therapy and medications aim to alleviate inflammation and pain.

Surgery for Shoulder Pain

Patients whose arthritis is more severe, or those who are interested in an accelerated treatment course, may be candidates for shoulder replacement surgery. Shoulder replacement surgery restores the joint's function by removing the arthritic shoulder joint and replacing it with a prosthetic implant, made to imitate the function of a natural shoulder.

Shoulder Replacement or Resurfacing Therapy

Shoulder replacement therapy involves the surgical removal of an arthritic shoulder joint, and the installation of a new joint, made of metal, durable plastics, and sometimes ceramic. In a total shoulder replacement procedure, the surgeon will remove the humeral head and replace it with a highly polished metal ball, attached to a stem, which is inserted into the femoral neck. The glenoid is also resurfaced, with a new plastic socket set in place. In younger patients with strong bone a polished metal surface is placed over the reshaped humeral head.

Learn more about shoulder replacement surgery »

Shoulder Pain Treatment in Seattle, WA

Dr. James W. Pritchett is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most trusted joint reconstruction specialists, treating shoulder pain and arthritis symptoms from his orthopedic offices in Seattle and Kirkland, WA. As one of the nation's leading joint replacement specialists, Dr. Pritchett has worked with medical device companies to help design prosthetic implants for improved fit and function, amongst other advances. To learn more about shoulder pain treatment with Dr. Pritchett, schedule an appointment to discuss the available treatment options.

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Last Modified: July 30, 2014