Shoulder and Arm Pain

Raking the fall leaves. Washing the car. Batting practice, a friendly game of tennis, teeing off on the links, shooting some hoops. Hefting a briefcase up over the seat back. Writing the annual report. Scrubbing the bathtub. Trimming the rose bushes. Shoveling snow off the walkway. Assembling that new flat-pack bookshelf.

There’s one unfortunate side effect commonly associated with all these typical American activities: shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, hand pain, or all four. On the job, there’s a whole host of industries where strenuous physical labor or unnatural postures and repetitive movements are daily requirements. Everything from building houses to building websites can unexpectedly bring about pain and stiffness – even muscle spasms, tendon and ligament damage – in shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands.

“While neck and shoulder pain can occur due to traumatic injuries or bone degeneration, muscle strain represents the main cause. The Cleveland Clinic notes that these soft-tissue injuries can happen all at once, or can come on gradually, such as when they are caused by habitually poor posture,” the America Medical Association’s Nancy Clarke reports.

Activity-related muscle pain can attack suddenly and viciously. Lying on that side hurts too much to sleep. Hanging a coat in a closet, or getting a frying pan out of a bottom cabinet, now takes two hands and causes a sharp twinge of pain. The car door seems to weigh a ton, the top shelf of the armoire is much too high, and everything feels a lot heavier with that sore shoulder, elbow, or wrist.

It’s an unhappy fact for too many Americans. And although it may not seem the most obvious place to go for shoulder and arm injuries and pain, visiting a chiropractor provides specialized treatment for shoulder and arm pain that not only helps improve range of motion, but reduces – and often completely eliminates – pain.

Studies show chiropractic treatment reduces and often completely eliminates shoulder and arm pain.

Dr. Michele Moore

Moore Chiropractic Health Care Center of Austin

Chiropractic Treatment Proven Effective For Shoulder And Arm Pain

More than 20 million Americans visit chiropractors every year, and those dealing with muscular or neuro-skeletal pain tout chiropractic treatment with giving them back their mobility and alleviating acute and chronic pain in the neck and spine. What is not as well known, however, is that chiropractors do not treat only the spine, but joints throughout the body, including the structurally diverse joints in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand.

A report published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates chiropractic treatment produces excellent results in patients with moderate to severe shoulder and arm pain, including “frozen shoulder syndrome,” in which the patient can no longer lift his or her arm at all. NIH is the government agency responsible for public health and biomedical research. Founded in the late 1870s under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH funds studies and publishes reports to help keep the public informed about health-care options available in the United States and throughout the world.

“Chiropractic is a health-care profession that focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure – mainly the spine – and its functioning. Although practitioners may use a variety of treatment approaches, they primarily perform adjustments (manipulations) to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself,” the NIH report explains.

The data show 80 percent of the patients studied experienced at least 75 percent less pain and increased mobility after an average of four weeks of chiropractic treatments. Significantly, 30 percent of the study patients showed a complete, 100-percent recovery, reporting no pain and full shoulder and arm function.

In addition to chiropractic treatment, there are several other steps patients can take to help reduce swelling, relieve pain, and promote healing between chiropractor visits when suffering with shoulder and arm pain.

Cool it down

Immediately after the injury, relax and rest the affected area and apply ice. Cooling the injured or inflamed muscles, tendons, and ligaments helps reduce swelling and pain. From refillable, waterproof bags for ice cubes to reusable gel-filled ice compresses that mold to the body, a wide variety of options exist for cold compresses. Because the ice helps numb the pain, it’s common for patients to want to use it for a long period, but using it more than 20 minutes at a time can cause frostbite to the skin. After the skin has warmed up again, ice can be re-applied.

Cooling down is also important to help avoid injury in the first place – stretching and slowly cooling off after strenuous exercise can help prevent strains, cramps and muscle spasms.

Warm it up

Apply a hot compress or heating pad. Like the cold compress, limit exposure to about 20 minutes at a time. After initial icing, heat and cold can be alternated to help shrink the inflammation with ice, then increase blood flow and relax tense, tight, or “locked-up” muscles with heat. Moist heat is recommended, especially for tendon and ligament injuries.

“The Cleveland Clinic considers moist heat and cold compresses safe for either short- or long-term conditions of neck and shoulder pain. Heat applications can come from a hot shower, a hot-water bottle or a reusable heated gel pack. Cold packs can be made with ice, a bag of frozen peas or a chilled gel pack. Patients should alternate 20 minutes of heat with 20 minutes of cold, ending with cold therapy to discourage inflammation,” Clarke explains.

Warming up is also an injury-prevention activity – stretching and slowing warming up to peak activity levels before strenuous exercise lets muscles stretch out slowly to make cramps, strains, spasms, and injuries less likely.

Stretch it out

While it may seem counter-intuitive to people suffering with a stiff and painful shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand, movement in the form of gentle, structured exercise helps promote healing. Of course, your chiropractor should be consulted before starting a new exercise in response to pain; often clinics provide exercise training, including printed diagrams of the proper ways to do each exercise to help patients stay on the right track.

Chiropractors, osteopaths, and physical therapists agree that moderate stretching and weight-training exercise can strengthen injured muscles and joints, which helps keep the bones in correct alignment and reduces pain. A dedicated regimen using a stretchable cord – something like a giant rubber band – to flex and strengthen the muscle groups that support the injured joint can result in a significant increase in range of motion and reduction in pain and stiffness. By changing to a tighter cord, the resistance can be increased as the joints and muscles regain strength and mobility.

Another set of simple, at-home exercises use a large inflatable ball, sometimes called a “body ball.” These light-weight balls provide options for stretching and strength-building exercises, including isometrics and balance training. Most gyms also offer fitness equipment that can be adjusted to provide a gentle shoulder and arm workout.

The Mayo Clinic advises gently stretching the neck and rotating the shoulders as far as shoulder and neck pain will comfortably allow. Holding a stretch for 30 seconds encourages muscles to build rather than lose strength, and stretching in all directions will hasten the return of full range of motion.

Those experiencing intermittent and unanticipated cramps and muscle spasms can benefit from practicing smooth, fluid movements, and using ergonomically-designed tools and furniture whenever possible. Good posture is important, not just when recovering from a painful injury, but to help prevent one. Learning the best methods to lift and carry heavy objects also helps reduce the risk of injury.

The primary thing to remember when exercising or working is this: if it hurts, stop! Make note of the level and duration of the pain, the specific movement that caused it, and inform the chiropractor about it at the next visit.

Wrap it up

Specialty braces, elastic wraps, or simple bandages can often help reduce pain and swelling. Simply wrap the area with a snug – not tight – elastic bandage. Typically, the bandage should be removed at least hourly, to make sure the pressure does not affect blood circulation. When used intermittently with hot and cold compresses, pressure can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

Rest up and eat up

Getting adequate rest is important to promote healing throughout the body. Rest the affected area specifically, and use a sling if necessary. Use pillows to prop up the injured arm, and try to sleep at least eight hours each night.

Nutrition also plays a key role in healing; a variety of foods provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs to repair damaged tissue. Avoid drinking alcohol or too much caffeine, which can increase cortisol levels, make muscles tense, and lead to increased joint pain and stiffness. Drink a lot of water to help the body flush itself out and remove the excess cortisol produced during times of pain and stress.

Chiropractic Care Works Better Than Drugs

The Washington Post notes, “Chiropractors, along with some osteopathic physicians and physical therapists, perform millions of spinal and joint manipulations – also called ‘adjustments’ – each year, and studies show they help diminish pain. According to The Washington Post and Consumer Reports, a review of 26 studies found that for chronic low-back pain, manipulation reduced pain in the short term at least as much as exercise, and even pain relievers. The same is true for shoulder and arm pain.”

A study of 181 people published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that getting regular chiropractic care – about once each week for 12 weeks – reduced pain in the spine and other joints better than NSAIDs and acetaminophen.

Experiencing Shoulder and Arm Pain in Austin?

If you are experiencing shoulder and arm pain in Austin, contact us at the Moore Chiropractic Health Care Center of Austin. Dr. Moore specializes in treating arm and shoulder pain. Call us at (512) 459-5523 and we will work together to get you on your path to healing.

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LINK TO ARTICLE (Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic references):

LINK TO ARTICLE: (Washington Post article about Consumer Reports report)