Shoulder problems are extremely common, yet they’re also often ignored. Although some find the issue resolves itself without intervention, the majority of shoulder injuries and conditions will worsen over time.
The impact of musculoskeletal conditions on the economy cannot be underestimated MSKs are one of the primary causes of absenteeism and the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe. Statistics released from the Health and Safety Executive, found that in 2015/16 there were 3,138,000 working days lost due to Work Related Upper Limb Disorders, with workers in the construction industry and skilled trade occupations having significantly higher rates of upper limb disorders.
Here, we’ll look at some of the most common shoulder symptoms you shouldn’t ignore and why it’s important to seek a diagnosis as early as possible.
Common shoulder symptoms to watch out for
Many people underestimate the severity of shoulder symptoms and the effect it can have on their lives. The shoulder is the most mobile joint within the body, making it extremely vulnerable to injury. Symptoms which develop within the shoulder can pinpoint to a number of injuries which is why they need to be checked out as quickly as possible. The most common symptoms to watch out for include:
Pain: The most common shoulder symptom patients experience is pain. Unfortunately, it can link to a wide range of different injuries and conditions, making it difficult to diagnose a specific cause purely from this symptom alone. For example, it could be a sign of a rotator cuff tear, shoulder instability, arthritis or a dislocation.
It is common for patients to put shoulder pain down to overusing the arm, misalignment while sleeping or as a temporary symptom brought on by injury. However, pain in the shoulder should never be ignored, especially if it is severe or brought on due to injury.
Stiffness: Shoulder stiffness is another common symptom often ignored and, like pain, it can be a sign of a more serious issue. Frozen shoulder is a common cause of stiffness within the shoulder joint and it is often mistaken for arthritis. If the condition is behind the stiffness you’re experiencing, you will notice it becoming gradually stiffer and more painful over time.
Stiffness can also be a sign of a dislocated shoulder, a shoulder separation or rotator cuff calcific tendonitis, amongst others.
Swelling: You may notice swelling directly after an injury, or it may develop gradually over time. It can also present itself either on the top of the shoulder or all over. Again, this symptom will typically be accompanied by pain and though it may go down on its own, swelling could pinpoint a more serious injury.
Weakness: If you’re struggling to move the arm or carry out daily tasks due to weakness in the shoulder, this absolutely shouldn’t be ignored. It could be a sign of shoulder impingement, a rotator cuff injury, or shoulder instability.
Locking: This is another potential symptom of shoulder instability. If you notice the joint popping, clicking or locking as you move the arm, you should get it checked out as soon as possible.
The above are the main symptoms to watch out for, but any issues you have with the shoulder should always be looked at by a doctor or a shoulder specialist. If these symptoms relate to a shoulder injury, the earlier you seek treatment the more likely it is to respond to conservative management.
Overall, if you’ve been experiencing pain, stiffness or numbness in the shoulder, it’s important to get it looked at as soon as possible. Never ignore shoulder symptoms, especially if the pain is becoming increasingly worse.