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Whether you stay in shape playing tennis or your job requires physical labor, your lifestyle can take a toll on your elbows and shoulders. For many people, mild aches and pains go away after a few days of rest and ibuprofen. But for others, joint pain is constant, and it doesn’t respond to heating pads or ice packs.
If you have pain, stiffness or swelling in your shoulder or elbow, it may be time to see your doctor – especially if you have a hard time moving your joint or performing daily activities. Joint pain is usually a reliable sign that something is wrong. But with proper diagnosis and treatment, it can often be reversed.
Your shoulder is called a ball-and-socket joint. That’s because the top of your upper arm has a rounded shape, like a ball. It fits into a cup-shaped hollow (socket) in your shoulder blade. Ball-and-socket joints are highly flexible. In fact, your shoulder has a broader, more diverse range of motion than any other joint in your body.
The elbow is a hinge joint that connects your forearm to your upper arm. It allows you to bend and straighten your arm.
Your shoulders and elbows are held together by various tissues. Ligaments connect the bones to other bones. Tendons connect bones with muscles. And a layer of slippery tissue called cartilage covers the ends of your bones. This helps them glide against each other during movement.
If something harms a part of your joint – whether it's a bone or the tissue around it – you may have pain, weakness, numbness and other symptoms that make it hard to use your arm or shoulder.
Even if your symptoms are mild, you should talk to your doctor. If caught early, many shoulder and elbow problems can be managed without surgery. But if left untreated, your injury or medical condition can worsen – and may need surgical correction.
Mercy’s orthopedic specialists understand that sometimes, pain can’t be ignored. It can interfere with your ability to do your job, manage your home or take care of yourself.
Our doctors provide many treatment options for shoulder and elbow disorders. Your unique care plan will address the cause of your pain. Depending on the severity of your condition, it may include:
If you’re tired of living with shoulder or elbow pain, talk to your Mercy physician about your treatment options. We’ll help restore your joint function – along with your quality of life.