A shooting pain in your arm or a twinge in the shoulder can slow you down. Sometimes, the pain is minimal and transitory, but the discomfort can build with use and time, making it difficult to move about and accomplish everyday tasks.
We tend to disregard pain if it doesn’t limit our ability to live our lives, but ignoring pain can result in permanent disability. Visiting a medical professional to identify the source of the pain and find appropriate treatment early is the safest choice.
Causes of arm and shoulder pain
The complex structures of the arm and shoulder areas, consisting of bone, muscles, ligaments and tendons allow us to move freely. However, this mobility makes these components vulnerable to injury, according to Health.com.
Arm and shoulder pain can often originate from irritated nerves in the neck that travel into the shoulder and arm. When these nerves are irritated by protruding spinal discs or arthritis that is crowding the nerve tissue, shooting pain, achiness or weakness anywhere in the shoulder, arm or hand can result.
Injury is the most obvious cause of pain in the arm or shoulder. A broken bone, a pulled muscle or strained or torn ligament are immediately painful, and we instinctively know to protect the injured area by limiting use until we receive treatment.
You may experience symptoms such as sharp pain, burning, numbness, weakness, or decreased range of motion — signs that an injury has occurred. However, these same symptoms may signal a more serious and possibly life-threatening source of arm or shoulder pain.
An aching hand or wrist may be the result of carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive use injury. Herniated or slipped discs, sciatica, or degenerative disc disease may occur through injury, overuse or aging. Swelling in the joints may indicate osteoarthritis, which occurs when prolonged wear and tear breaks down joint cartilage (arthritis.com).
Serious diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia may also present as arm or shoulder pain. RA is caused when the immune system attacks and inflames joint tissue. The National Institutes of Health describes fibromyalgia as a “chronic disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue,” with “pain and tenderness throughout your body.” Novocur warns that a shooting pain in the left arm may signal a heart attack, and pain radiating to the shoulder from the chest abdomen may indicate gallbladder disease.
Treatments for arm and shoulder pain
Since there are so many potential causes for pain in the arm or shoulder, it is critical that you pay attention to the intensity, duration and location of arm pain and relate them to your physician. Proper treatment can then be applied so that you may be pain-free and back to full mobility as quickly as possible.
Treatments range from simple, noninvasive procedures such as the use of oral anti-inflammatory medications or physical therapy to more complex therapies such as steroid injections, surgeries or innovative methods such as soft tissue reconstruction.
Epidural steroid injection: Novocur recommends epidural steroid injections for pain related to inflamed spinal nerves. Such inflammation may be the result of disc disease or defect. These problems can cause radiating arm pain or weakness. Your pain doctor will determine the proper placement of the anti-inflammatory medication using X-ray.
The injection may take up to a week to take full effect, but the results can last up to several months. This procedure has been used for many years to relieve arm and shoulder pain and improve mobility, and it is considered a safe and effective treatment.
Trigger point injection therapy: This therapy is designed to treat muscle pain that is either chronic, as for fibromyalgia sufferers or induced by injury or overuse.
Such ailments as headaches, jaw or back pain can be the result of muscle damage radiating from another part of the body, such as the arm or shoulder. Your physician can determine the specific area of the body causing your muscle pain by compressing a trigger point. This may cause direct or referred pain, identifying the pain center.
Once your pain doctor has determined the precise origin of your muscle pain, a local anesthetic combined with anti-inflammatory medication is injected into the trigger point giving immediate relief.
Regenerative medicine: Regenerative medicine, or amniotic allograft injection, is a promising new therapy used by Novocur to treat multiple causes of arm and shoulder pain, particularly those in which soft tissue or joints are damaged.
In simple terms, amniotic and placental tissue is secured from live, healthy donors. These tissues provide the building blocks of collagen, growth factors and amniotic proteins that make up the allograft injections. The collagen component acts as a scaffold that new healthy tissue can grow on, growth factors promote tissue reconstruction and amniotic proteins suppress and modulate pain and inflammation.
Like trigger point and epidural injections, this liquid tissue matrix is infused at the source of pain. Regenerative medicine goes a step further than more traditional therapies, however, providing additional building blocks that help to generate new healthy tissue to replace damaged cells, effectively replacing the old with the new.
Don’t assume that awkward twist or fall caused your arm or shoulder pain. There are so many sources to consider, from injury to disease to genetic factors, so it is important to consult a specialist in pain management, such as those at Novocur, to make sure you are using the right treatment that focuses on the real source of your pain.
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