5 Inconvenient Truths about Shoulder Pain

Ever tried wiping with your “other” arm? If you have shoulder joint pain, you may be all too familiar with the impact it can have on your life.  

There's a sore shoulder—and then there's excruciating shoulder pain.

When your shoulder muscles and joint become so stiff, sore, and achy that it’s a struggle to do even basic tasks, it can be hard not to feel down in the dumps. With an estimated 15% to 25% of the adult population living with this health condition, you're certainly not alone if you're fed up with your shoulder function.1

If your pain is affecting your daily life, talk to a doctor. Especially if you've been forced to give up things you enjoy or used to be able to do with ease.

5 ways shoulder pain can affect your day-to-day life

Shoulder arthritis can make it difficult to get dressed or reach the higher shelves around your house. But, there are plenty of other ways people become limited (and frustrated) by their shoulder aches and pain. These may include:

1. Using the toilet

Ever tried to perform toilet hygiene using your non-dominant hand? This can be about as awkward and as...well, messy as you might think. But, when you lose range of motion in your shoulder, wiping with the wrong hand is sometimes your only option. While your doctor or an occupational therapist may be able to prescribe adaptive equipment, or teach you special strategies to wipe more successfully, you may still experience a major inconvenience.

2. Getting ready

There are many self-care activities you do that require a healthy and mobile shoulder joint. This includes washing up in the shower, putting on makeup, putting in your contacts, brushing your teeth, and combing and styling your hair. Losing your independence with these activities can quickly take the pep out of your step in the morning.

3. Driving

Severe shoulder pain can make it difficult to do a number of things required for safe driving.

  • Putting on your seatbelt
  • Turning the steering wheel
  • Using the shift stick
  • Adjusting your rearview mirror

Even backing up, parallel parking, or merging onto a highway can be limited by a painful shoulder, since turning to look may be too uncomfortable. Additional caution may be necessary when driving if you experience any pain and limited movement.

4. Sleeping

It doesn't matter if you're a side sleeper, back sleeper, or even stomach sleeper—any position can be made uncomfortable when you've got a sore shoulder. And, there's nothing quite as frustrating as being woken up by your pain—especially when you consider how lack of sleep can sometimes make pain worse.2

5. Staying active

For some people with severe shoulder pain, jogging, climbing stairs, or even walking can be difficult due to the way these tasks require at least some amount of arm movement. The problem is, sedentary activity can make your pain worse and promote weight gain. If you’re struggling to stay active, talk to a doctor. They may be able to give you information specific to your condition.

Understanding Shoulder Pain and Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Want to learn more about your options for shoulder pain? Click on this image for a free downloadable brochure.

Is it time to consider shoulder replacement surgery?

3 things to consider

Shoulder replacement surgeries are generally very effective for alleviating pain, improving range of motion, and restoring function, according to Cleveland Clinic.3 But, as with any surgery, they come with associated risks and possible complications. You can read a list of these here, but it’s a good idea to discuss the procedure with your doctor and find out about specific risks given your personal medical history.

Shoulder replacement is not necessary or appropriate for all people; shoulder pain can be the result of other medical issues or injuries that can be treated more conservatively. Only a doctor can assess your pain and determine the treatment appropriate for you. But here are 3 things to keep in mind if you've been wondering whether a shoulder replacement surgery is right for you:

  • Have you exhausted other conservative treatment options first—including physical therapy, medication, and possibly injections? If so, and you haven’t already, it may be time to meet with an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation.3
  • Are you willing to do your post-surgery rehab? Being disciplined with your physical therapy exercises and stretching can have a big impact on our overall outcome.4,5
  • How much is your pain interfering with your daily activities? Are you unable to participate in activities you love, due to your pain? Only you and your surgeon can determine with surgery is right for you; with your surgeon, you can determine whether the potential benefits of addressing your pain an immobility outweigh the risks of surgery.3
  1. Pribicevic, M. (2012). The Epidemiology of Shoulder Pain: A Narrative Review of the Literature. Pain in Perspective. https://www.intechopen.com/books/pain-in-perspective/the-epidemiology-of-shoulder-pain-a-narrative-review-of-the-literature
  2. Sleep and pain (n.d.). Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/fatigue-sleep/sleep-and-pain
  3. When is shoulder replacement a good option? (2019). Cleveland Clinic.  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/when-is-shoulder-replacement-a-good-option-for-osteoarthritis/
  4. Recovering from shoulder replacement surgery (n.d.). USCF Health. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/recovering-from-shoulder-replacement-surgery
  5. Vo, a., et al. (2013). Physical therapy and rehabilitation after rotator cuff repair: a review of current concepts. International Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: 1(5). https://www.longdom.org/open-access/physical-therapy-and-rehabilitation-after-rotator-cuff-repai-a-review-of-current-concepts-2329-9096.1000142.pdf
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