We tend to take our shoulders for granted—that is, until they become painful. Then basic activities like showering, getting dressed, sleeping and driving can become difficult and unpleasant.

The shoulder is a complicated structure comprised of various bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons, and there are numerous ways it can be injured. Sometimes this happens as a result of an accident or from overuse; sometimes it occurs as we age.

Let’s take a look at seven of the most common reasons your shoulder might be hurting.

  1. Osteoarthritis (or OA). OA affects millions, primarily older people, although younger people can get it too. In OA, the cartilage that protects the ends of your bones wears out with time, causing pain and stiffness. Although OA is most often reported in the knees and hips, it also affects other major joints, including shoulders.
  2. Rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a system of tendons and muscles that hold the bone of your upper arm in place within your shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury is very painful and most often happens to those people who repeatedly put stress on the joint, as in certain sports or trades.
  3. Frozen shoulder. Here, the shoulder becomes very stiff over a period of several months. This sometimes happens if you have a medical situation that restricts the motion of your arm, like a mastectomy. This usually goes away with time, but can recur.
  4. Impingement. This happens most often in older, active adults. The shoulder is a little different than most other joints. Instead of it being cushioned by muscles, it’s “inside out,” with the shoulder bone enclosing the muscles and tendons. If the muscles are injured, they can swell and squeeze the tendons, reducing blood flow and damaging them.
  5. Tendonitis. Like impingement, tendonitis involves the tendons in your shoulder. However, this condition is caused by an injury to the tendon itself and is sometimes called “swimmer’s shoulder.”
  6. Bursitis. Bursae are small, liquid-filled, pillow-like structures that serve as cushioning throughout the body. These sometimes become inflamed, often due to stressing your joint over and over. Although older people most often experience it, other medical conditions can cause it too.
  7. Instability. This happens when the top of your upper arm bone is pushed out of the shoulder socket. Also called a dislocated shoulder, this is extremely painful, and once it happens, it may happen again because the joint is weakened.

Getting help

While some shoulder problems go away on their own, or can be treated at home with ice and rest, not all of them can.

Here are some signs that you should see a physician immediately:

  • Your shoulder looks deformed or out of its normal shape
  • You can’t move your arm
  • You experience extreme pain
  • The joint is swollen
  • Your shoulder feels hot to the touch
  • You have trouble breathing or tightness in your chest

While the last condition may point to a heart attack, the others likely indicate a shoulder injury that should also be treated by a doctor right away.

Your options

The good news is, surgery may not be necessary. The risk, recovery time and restricted activity you’ll experience as a result of undergoing shoulder surgery certainly make exploring other options worthwhile.

There are treatments like Progeni-Flex™, a fascinating type of regenerative medicine that helps the body repair itself. It uses your own stem cells—special cells that can begin a natural healing process, even for age-related shoulder problems. These cells are injected with precision into the injured area.

Another non-surgical option is VisCare-Flex®, which involves injecting an FDA-approved, naturally-occurring lubricant into the joint. This has been proven effective in other joints, such as knees, and can even help with the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis.

Before you submit to risky, painful surgery and face months of physical therapy to regain use of your shoulder, contact Flexogenix. The joint experts there can assess your shoulder and recommend the safest and most effective treatments to get you back on track.