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Ultrasound Therapy and Shoulder Pain

Jan 27, 2022 | Muscle & Joint

We use our shoulders every day, mostly without thought, for many significant activities. Reaching, lifting, raising, playing, fixing, building and throwing, to name just a few. Therefore, it can be extremely difficult to ignore shoulder pain to any degree, when it occurs.

What is the pain in my shoulder?

There are 4 common causes of shoulder pain:

  • Rotator cuff tear or injury – The rotator cuff is made up of the four tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint. The upper arm bone depends on the rotator cuff to stay attached to the shoulder. Tears can be full or partial and generally as the result of an injury. Typical symptoms of this injury include a dull, deep ache in the shoulder, difficulty reaching up or behind and arm weakness.
  • Tendonitis – Inflammation or irritation of a tendon- the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. The condition causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. The most common cause of tendonitis is repetitive action. Tendons help you make a certain movement over and over. You may develop tendonitis if you frequently make the same motion while playing sports or working. The risk increases if you perform the motion incorrectly.
  • Bursitis – Bursae are small sacs of fluid that help cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near the shoulder joint. When these sacs become inflamed, pain will occur. Symptoms include swelling, redness, warmth/tenderness around the shoulder, or feeling achy or stiff. Sometimes even fever can develop.
  • Bicep tendon injury – injury to the bicep muscle in the front of the upper arm. Symptoms of a tendon tear include warmth at the injury site, swelling, bruising, pain or ache at the injury site and throughout the arm, arm weakness, and pain when rotating the palm.

Diagnosing shoulder pain:

There are 3 methods which aid in the investigation of shoulder pain:

  • Ultrasound – An ultrasound safely sends high-frequency sound waves through your body to produce images of internal organs, veins and other structures in your body. The images produced by ultrasounds can provide valuable information that helps your doctor “see” what is going on in your body without exposing you to harmful radiation.
  • Shoulder X-ray – The primary reason to take a shoulder x-ray is to confirm or exclude the presence of a fracture. Additionally, the image can provide information on the position of the shoulder joint, any bone abnormalities (including bone tumours) and soft tissue disorders (e.g. calcifications in the rotator cuff muscles).
  • MRI scan – An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to capture images of your body’s internal structures. While an MRI scan can be performed on any part of your body, a shoulder MRI scan specifically helps your doctor see the bones, blood vessels, and tissues in your shoulder region. A shoulder MRI can also help your doctor to diagnose potential problems found in other imaging tests, such as x-rays.

Why are ultrasounds great for shoulder pain?

When it comes to shoulder pain, diagnosis is complicated – the actual problem does not always correlate with where the patient hurts. Therefore, a physical exam is not enough, and an x-ray can only be used to see bones, not tendons.

Within the past 10 to 20 years, shoulder ultrasound has emerged as a critical method for investigating and diagnosing shoulder pain. Ultrasound imaging can reveal with 100% sensitivity, a full thickness tear of the rotator cuff, and a partial tear with 90 percent sensitivity. The ultrasound probe can be angled wherever it needs to go, so we can evaluate each tendon at different angles and hone in on the reason for the pain. Shoulder ultrasound is an alternative to shoulder imaging in patients who can’t undergo MRI. It is cost effective and can be scheduled and performed quickly.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it is important to visit your GP. Or feel free to book your private shoulder ultrasound with us, today. Here at Imaging.London, we provide rapid access to all ultrasound services with same-day, high-quality reporting. Self-pay and insured patients are welcome, with no referral required.

References:

nhs.uk

healthline.com 

radiopaedia.org 

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