agony in shoulder after lifting cabinets

by carole
(be air, md)

Pinched artery and nerves in the interscalene triangle is one cause of a frozen shoulder.

Pinched artery and nerves in the interscalene triangle is one cause of a frozen shoulder.

Agony in shoulder after lifting cabinets, with loss of range of motion suggests a frozen shoulder.

I was helping my aunt by moving very heavy metal cabinets. Got to the 5th or so and felt an odd sensation, a tearing, then slow softening/release but I didn't drop the cabinet.

For three weeks there was an increasing discomfort which now, after three months has morphed into excruciating, relentless pain that progresses from sharp and unbearable to a grinding soul numbing burning sensation. As the pain has increased the frozen state has set in and locked my arm in place.

I've lost 50 percent in range of motion both front and side. They say this will get better. I've never known pain like this and the idea that this could go on for months perhaps years is impossible to comprehend. I'm going to PT now, taking ibuprofen, cold compress and praying for mercy. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.

Hello Carole,
You almost certainly have a frozen shoulder and, if so, you're not whingeing about nothing. It's an extremely painful and debilitating condition, often worse at night and disturbing sleep.

The burning pain suggests that you suffered a neurological injury; try pricking your arm and seeing if there are any numb patches, as compared to the other arm.

You make no mention of cervical spine pain; does it hurt if your turn your head to the side and then look up?

Other fairly common causes are a first rib syndrome affecting the whole brachial plexus; then the pulse in your wrist is affected. The diagnosis is made from Adson's test.

And then the collar bone often is jammed in the AC joint in the shoulder. In short there are many common causes and only a careful and thorough examination will locate the primary nodus of your pain. The subscapularis muscle is often extremely painful.

The first step is find out what the underlying cause is. The second is to keep your arm moving, but within the relatively painfree zone. At our frozen shoulder page you'll find some exercises. Do them faithfully, gently and regularly several times a day.

Something in your neck or the first rib is probably, but not necessarily the primary cause.

You will have to be patient, it won't come right quickly. I find that with chiropractic the pain is usually halved within a month, but regaining full range of motion, especially behind your back as in doing up your bra can take much longer.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

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