Do You Get Pain On The Front Of Your Shoulder?
Watch this video to learn what causes pain on the front of the shoulder, plus what you can do to relieve it.
What Causes Pain On Front Of The Shoulder?
The most common cause of pain in the front of the shoulder is a rotator cuff problem.
What does it mean if I have a rotator cuff problem?
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles (the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that keeps the ball of the shoulder centered in the socket.
Is Surgery The Only Treatment For A Roator Cuff Problem?
No. Rotator cuff surgery is only needed in a small number of cases of shoulder pain, even if there are rotator cuff tears present.
In fact, research shows that in some cases, non-surgical treatment of rotator cuff tears can produce equal or better results than surgical treatment.
What Else Can Cause Pain On The Front Of The Shoulder?
Your neck can also refer pain into the shoulder, particularly the C5 nerve root from your neck. This typically causes pain into the outside of the shoulder, not pain on front of the shoulder.
If you need some help to find out if your shoulder pain is coming from your rotator cuff or your neck, click the button below to request a Free Discovery Visit:
*Also note that if the pain is in the left shoulder, and it came on suddenly without warning, you should also rule out your heart as left shoulder pain can be a symptom of a heart attack, usually more in women than in men.
What Are Symptoms Of A Rotator Cuff Problem?
If you have pain on front of the shoulder that is caused by a rotator cuff problem, you probably have pain with one or more of these 4 things
What Can You Do To Relieve Pain On Front Of The Shoulder?
In most cases, pain in front of the shoulder comes from some form of "impingement", meaning tendons are getting pinched between the ball of the shoulder and the socket of the shoulder. In the picture below, you can see that there are a lot of tendons and other structures that run through a very tiny space (less than 1 cm).
Often the rotator cuff tendons are what get pinched, but as you can see, there are several other structures that can get pinched such as the biceps tendon or a fluid-filled sac called the "subacromial bursa".
Regard less of whether it's the biceps tendon, or the bursa, or the rotator cuff tendons causing the shoulder pain, the treatment usually boils down to the same 2 problems:
A shoulder blade problem, and
A shoulder joint problem
To understand this, let's consider a few different activities that commonly cause pain on front of the shoulder:
Pain In Front Of Shoulder When Lifting Arm
When you lift your arm above shoulder height, the shoulder blade should rotate upward in order to allow the ball of the shoulder to roll upward in the socket without pinching tendons. If your shoulder blade doesn't rotate upward, this can cause pinching of the rotator cuff tendons and cause pain in front of the shoulder when lifting your arm.
A second problem that causes pain in the front of the shoulder when lifting your arm is that the ball is too far forward in the socket.
If you imagine a golf ball sitting on a golf tee, if the ball is not centered in the tee, then it can't rotate smoothly without pinching on the edge of the tee.
Now imagine that that golf ball is not a perfectly round ball, but has some bumps on it. This is the case in the "ball" of the shoulder joint, or the humeral head.
The way in which those "bumps" are turned will determine whether or not you get shoulder pain when lifting your arm overhead.
Think about lifting "thumbs up for success". This will put the shoulder joint in the proper orientation such that you don't pinch tendons in your shoulder when lifting your arm.
Make sure to watch the video above for a full demonstration.
Pain In Front Of Shoulder When Lifting Objects or Weights
What if you only get pain in front of your shoulder when lifting things that have some weight too them, but not just lifting the weight of the arm itself?
This indicates a muscle force production problem. Namely, that your muscles are strong enough to create the proper movement patterns when only lifting the weight your arm, but when additional resistance is added, then you start to get pain.
To fix this problem, start with the same few tips:
- Shoulder blade problem: keep your chest up and shoulder blades back when lifting or carrying things.
- When lifting weight overhead, allow the shoulder blade to rotate upward and wrap around your ribcage.
- Lift with "thumb up" or "thumb pointing backwards" rather than thumb down, palm down, or elbow out to the side.
- ONLY lift the amount of weight that you can lift with proper technique using steps 1-3.
Pain On Front Of Shoulder When Reaching Behind Back
If your shoulder blade tilts too far forward when reaching behind your back, it brings the arch of the shoulder blade down into the ball of the shoulder and can create pinching of tendons. (Shoulder blade problem)
Additionally, as your elbow goes too far behind your body, it pushes the ball of the shoulder forward in the socket, which can also create pain on front of the shoulder when reaching behind your back. (Shoulder joint problem)
To prevent this, think about keeping your shoulder blade pulled back and move your shoulder blade and your arm together behind your back.
Make sure to watch the video above for a demonstration of this, as it's hard to describe without seeing it.
Pain In Front Of Shoulder When Reaching Across Body
When reaching across your body, if you only reach your arm across you body moving at the shoulder joint, then you're likely to pinch the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendons in your shoulder against a bump of bone on the front side of the shoulder blade called the corocoid process.
In order to avoid pain on front of the shoulder when reaching across your body, there are two main things you need to do:
- Make sure you're not just reaching with your arm. Allow your shoulder blade to move around your body as you reach and allow your arm to follow.
- If you don't have enough flexibility in the back part of the shoulder joint, it's going to push the ball forward in the joint and pinch against the coracoid process as you reach across your body.
In order to help this you can do an exercise known as the sleeper stretch.
However, if you'd like to get faster improvement, we offer treatments in the office such as shoulder joint mobilization, myofasical release (a.k.a. trigger point release), and dry needling. If you'd like to get your shoulder pain better faster, just give us a call at 314-941-3970 and we'd be happy to help!