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Shoulder Pain

Image by Chino Rocha
Image of the anatomy of the shoulder

The shoulder joint is a complex joint consisting of  a large ball at the top of the arm bone (the ‘humerus’) and a small shallow socket (the glenoid) which is part of the shoulder blade. Sitting above the ball is a roof formed by a bony part of the shoulder blade at the back (the ‘acromion’) and a ligament at the front. The space in between the ball and the roof is called the sub-acromial space, see picture.

The rotator cuff muscles pass through the sub-acromial space. Their role is to move the arm and keep it sitting in the correct position on the socket as it moves. A fluid filled sac (the ‘bursa’) sits on top of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles and protects them from the acromion. When the arm is at shoulder height the sub acromial space narrows. When the arm is in positions above and below this, the sub-acromial space is much larger.

  • Acute back pain
    Acute back pain can come on suddenly, or over time and can range from a mild pain or ache to quite severe pain, which can be extremely distressing and can sometimes stop you carrying out your everyday activities. It is often difficult to identify why your back is painful as the pain can come from joints, muscles or nerves being inflammed, stretched or compressed. It can often be caused by lifting or moving awkwardly. However, more often than not, acute back pain comes on without any specific injury to your back. You may experience: Back pain Muscle spasm Stiffness Leg pain (sciatica) Watch the video above to find out how to help with this. For most cases of back pain, X-ray and scans are of little benefit.
  • Chronic Back Pain
    Chronic back pain refers to pain that has not gone away after three months. Like acute back pain, it is usually caused by a strain or a sprain in the back - but the pain and distress can last for much longer and it can have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Chronic back pain can range from a mild pain or ache, to a more severe pain. This can depend on a variety of things, such as how happy you are at home or at work, if you are prone to depression or if you have had back pain before. Chronic back pain usually requires treatment such as medication or physiotherapy. In most cases though, your back will heal itself. It is important that you keep active and continue as normal, but if your pain is severe and persistent then you should seek medical advice for diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
  • Sciatica
    Sciatica is a pain that travels down from your lower back or buttock, to your foot. It usually happens when the jelly within the discs that separate the bones of your spine (vertebrae) pushes out of the disc and irritates the sciatic nerve. Swollen muscles, joints or ligaments can also irritate the nerve causing sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs down through the back, into the buttock, down the back of the leg and round to the outside of the lower leg and foot. When the nerve gets compressed or irritated, the brain interprets the pain as coming from the buttock or leg instead of the back, where the problem actually is. The pain is often a severe shooting pain, sometimes accompanied with pins and needles or numbness. You should seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of the following: - loss of control of your bladder or bowel - numbness around your saddle (genital) area - problems with the coordination of your steps when walking Sciatica can usually be helped with exercise. If the pain is too severe to exercise, speak to your GP about medication you could take for a short time to allow you to exercise. When you're ready, try to exercise class on the back pain webpage.
  • Spinal Stenosis
    Download an information pack here For more information, see the Versus Arthritis website here
Image of a man doing outdoor exercise

Considering a Shoulder Replacement?

Considering Shoulder Key Hole Surgery?

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