Do you hear clicking or popping in your shoulder when you move it? Do you experience aching or discomfort when lifting or using your arms? Do you struggle to fully raise your arm or move it in a particular direction?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, shoulder weakness may be the cause.
What is shoulder weakness?
A healthy shoulder functions as expected, with a full range of motion and without deficits in strength, stability, or movability. Weak shoulders, however, are unable to perform basic exercises or movements without the presence of pain, aches, numbness, or feebleness.
What are the most common symptoms of weakness in the shoulder?
- Pain when the arms are extended above the head
- Persistent fatigue when performing repetitive arm movements or exercises
- Droopy or lethargic posture, specifically in the shoulders
- A limited range of motion
- A dull, but constant pain in the shoulder area
What causes shoulder weakness?
Weakness in the arms and shoulders can be attributed to a wide range of issues.
Some of the most common causes of shoulder weakness include:
1. Medical Conditions
Degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are common causes of muscle weakness, as they cause bones and joints to lose strength, and often result in chronic pain.
These conditions often impact the shoulder, wearing away at the cartilage lining that surrounds the shoulder joint, resulting in inflammation and shoulder fatigue.
2. Acute Shoulder Injuries
When the shoulder is subjected to trauma (as the result of a fall, sports injury, or car accident, etc.) it can cause instability and loose ligaments, among other concerns. This impacts the mechanics of the shoulder, leading to premature generation.
These conditions typically lead to pain, swelling, and fragility of the shoulder.
3. Overuse Injuries
The symptoms of overuse injuries are often similar to those of acute shoulder injuries or injuries caused by medical conditions. A burning or aching pain, a lack of strength, and difficulty performing regular tasks like opening a door or lifting a hairdryer are all common signs that an overuse injury has occured.
The primary difference, however, is how the injury came to be. With overuse injuries, shoulder weakness and other symptoms develop over time, and worsen the more the individual repeats the movement or activity.
Overuse injuries are common amongst tennis players, basketball players, construction workers, and bodybuilders, since these activities require regular, consistent use of the arm and shoulders.
How is shoulder weakness diagnosed?
Physicians can perform a series of tests to determine if you are suffering from symptoms of a weak shoulder.
Some of these diagnostic assessments include:
- Range of motion testing
- A physical examination where the patient is checked for the presence of swelling, asymmetry, and/or atrophy
- Examination of acromioclavicular and sternoclavicular joints
- Performance of standard tests, including the Hawkin’s test, the drop-arm test, and others.
What treatments are available for shoulder weakness?
If a patient reports that their shoulder feels weak, and a proper assessment confirms the presence of shoulder weakness, there are a number of treatment options their healthcare provider can recommend.
Of course, the suggested plan of action will differ depending on the severity of the presenting symptoms, so it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before attempting to treat your weak shoulder in any way.
Shoulder weakness treatment options include:
- Resting the arm in a sling
- Applying hot and cold therapies
- Cortisone injections
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Shoulder replacement surgery
What are cortisone injections?
Cortisone injections are one of the most relied-upon methods of treating shoulder fatigue and deltoid weakness. Essentially, cortisone is an artificial replication of cortisol, a hormone that is produced naturally in the body’s adrenal glands. This hormone is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, reducing inflammation, and managing a person’s response to stress, among other duties.
When cortisol is injected into a muscle, or into the bloodstream, however, it acts as a fast-paced anti-inflammatory that can relieve many of the symptoms associated with weak joints in as little as just a couple of days.
When is surgery required to treat shoulder weakness?
As always, surgery is a last resort for treating medical conditions. Thus, a healthcare professional will likely recommend shoulder surgery when all other forms of treatment have failed to produce the desired results.
Some common signs that shoulder surgery may be necessary include:
- Pain continues to persist despite medicinal treatments like painkillers or cortisone shots
- An X-ray, ultrasound and/or MRI has shown a severe fracture, or the presence of bursitis or tendinitis
- A degenerative condition like arthritis has resulted in significant retrogression of the joints, cartilage, and/or bones
- Physiotherapy has failed to provide adequate relief
- Symptoms have persisted for longer than 6-12 months
How Can ShoulderMD Help?
When dealing with shoulder weakness, receiving advice from a well-versed and qualified healthcare professional is of paramount importance.
The cause of the pain or frailty must be assessed with masterful precision in order to determine the best course of action for treatment.
Dr. Daniel Grant Schwartz, the owner and primary orthopedic surgeon at Shoulder MD, specializes in the treatment of shoulder ailments and injuries, providing expert, individualized care to each and every patient.
Whether it’s arthritis, a broken bone, sprained ligament, work-related pain, tendon tears or a season-ending sports injury, Dr. Schwartz can diagnose, treat and rehabilitate injuries to bones, muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments.
Furthermore, Dr. Schwartz has been named an “Emerging Leader” in Orthopaedic Surgery by the American Orthopaedic Association since 2013, and has recently been appointed to the Social Media Advisory Board of the premier journal in orthopaedic surgery: JBJS (Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery)— making him a trusted and distinguished member of the Orthopaedic community.
If you’re looking for an outstanding medical practitioner to oversee the diagnosis and treatment of your shoulder weakness, we encourage you to contact our office today. Dr. Schwartz is ready and capable of providing you with the relief you’re looking for.