I can't tell you how many times I have come across friends, neighbors and acquaintances at social gatherings that mention pain in their shoulders. It is often in reference to their inability to perform fun hobbies, reach for items on a shelf or grab the milk from the fridge without pain. When I begin to ask further questions (because I can't help myself) they focus on what they can do to try to convince me that they don't have a major injury. "See I can do bicep curls, it's just that I can't do push ups. But when it really hurts is when I try to lie on my side." The list goes on. The nagging pain prevents certain activities, but it is not a pain that completely sidelines them...that is until it's too late. As physical therapists, we often don't see people until it gets to the point that the pain interrupts their sleep and often they are dealing with other associated problems.
Aching, nagging pain is often the primary complaint that can be pinpointed to the site of the biceps tendon in front of the shoulder or at one of the rotator cuff tendons at the top of the shoulder. This type of pain along a tendon is often the result of mild to severe inflammation, hence the name "tendinitis." Tendinitis is a very common diagnosis for various parts of the body and it tends to get an underwhelming amount of attention. It is hard for people to believe that inflammation of such a small body part can cause so much havoc.
What is worth mentioning is that tendons are so important for your body's function. They are thick cordlike structures that attach muscle to bone. As a result, they are responsible for allowing your muscles to move your bones. Many of you may not know that something as simple as tendinitis can lead to more complicated issues. Tendinitis of the shoulder can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatories and exercise provided that it receives early treatment. It is important to strengthen counteracting muscles of a region (such as the back of the shoulder) in order to prevent further injury to the tendon or develop abnormal movement patterns.
If a tendon is not swollen or inflamed, but very painful, there is a good chance that you are dealing with tendinosis, which is a breakdown of collagen. Collagen is the main protein that provides structure to our tendons. This diagnosis is often the result of chronic overuse of a tendon, without rest to allow for healing. As you can imagine, when you get to the point that your tendon has breakdown, you are dealing with more pain, more therapy, more time and more money to achieve relief and return to your normal level of activity.
If I haven't convinced you yet, that you should talk to us sooner rather than later, let me show you numbers that compare average times for recovery:
Acute (early) cases:
Tendinitis = 2-3 days
Tendinosis = 2-3 months
Chronic (longterm) cases:
Tendinitis = 4-6 weeks
Tendinosis = 3-6 months
Tendinitis: 3-6 weeks
Tendinosis: 4-6 months
Addressing pain and inflammation in any tendon of the body is important. At Apex Wellness, our screens are free, so you can inquire about any pain you experience. Use us to guide you to get the right treatment or referral all while saving you precious time and money!