Can't straighten arm front of shoulder pain



by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit




Pain or tenderness in the front, side, or back of the shoulder is relatively common.

The most likely explanation is an injury to the tendons that make up the rotator cuff complex of the shoulder.



Overuse of the rotator cuff tendons is common and becomes more common with increasing age. These tendons are responsible for the movement of the shoulder and because the arc of motion is so great, these tendons are placed under much stress.

This condition is often brought on by:

• Overhead activities such as installing drywall or painting, as well as sports activities that require arm movement overhead.
• Tight pectoral (chest), rotator cuff, and latissimus (mid back) muscles
• Weak rotator cuff muscles
• Faulty throwing, hitting and weightlifting techniques in selected instances


Stretching and strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles as well as the muscles that support the shoulder in the chest and back is very important.

This is where a good physical therapist will be able to assess body mechanics and determine if there is muscle imbalance or weakness in areas that could predispose to shoulder dysfunction.

Another reason of inability to straighten the arm with pain in the front of the shoulder is tendonitis involving the bicipital tendon. This tendon is intimately involved in movement of the arm and shoulder but is not a part of the rotator cuff. This problem usually occurs as a result of injury or repetitive motion that stresses the biceps such as hammering, using a screwdriver, or over vigorous weight-training.

The treatment involves physical therapy and occasionally steroid injection. If there is tendinosis- fraying of the tendon, then ultrasound guided needle tenotomy with injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is probably indicated.

Inability to straighten the arm along with anterior shoulder pain can occasionally occur with elbow disorders such as tendonitis, inflammation of the elbow joint, or even a loose piece of cartilage in the elbow joint. When the elbow joint is involved along with the shoulder, an attempt should be made to examine the patient for a more generalized type of arthritis condition.


Visit our sister site to learn more about tendonitis...Tendonitis and PRP



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