The Human Cost of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain impacts us greatly. It costs us physically, socially and economically and puts a tremendous load on the healthcare system. The question is what can we do about it?

In this shoulder physiotherapy news update Luke reveals the hard facts about the cost of shoulder pain.

00:15 – Population data on shoulder pain
00:35 – Shoulder pain gets the bronze medal
01:00 – The most common shoulder diagnoses in general practice
01:35 – The stats aren’t good…you’re in for the long haul
02:10 – Only 50% will resolve their shoulder pain within 6 months
02:35 – Accurate diagnosis and treatment are essential
03:00 – Shoulder pain predominates in older age
03:30 – We have to do better

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Hi, Luke Van Every here and welcome to another episode of Shoulder Guy TV.

In this episode we’re going to discuss shoulder pain facts. This is the data that we have regarding shoulder pain, and there’s some interesting things that you need to note. These are some of the things that we know about shoulder pain out there in the community.

We’ll just go through them quickly. Shoulder pain is the third most common disorder out there for which people seek primary care treatment. Right behind neck and back pain, shoulder pain comes in a nice third. We’re not doing too badly. Shoulder pain accounts for 1-2% of all GP visits annually throughout the population. If you look at that, it’s not a bad little trickle of people coming through with shoulder pain.

Its diagnosis is very interesting, too. This is something that we’ll discuss further down. A population study looked at approximately 35,000 people with shoulder pain across eleven GP practices and the most common diagnosis at 30% was rotator cuff tendonitis. What other diagnoses were made would be very interesting to see in that study?

The alarming thing that we need to probably take note of here, for both the physiotherapists, personal trainers, exercise physiologists, and also you at home, you need to know that there’s a high morbidity rate here. A recent study of shoulder pathology revealed that fifty percent of people are still experiencing symptoms at three years.

We’re not doing well here, in terms of either getting the diagnosis right, or getting the treatment right here. There’s a huge amount of people still out there suffering shoulder pain well after their initial episode. Another study looked at how quickly people got over their shoulder pain and again, looking at morbidity, this study showed that 50% of people got over it roughly in about six months, is what I tend to see anyway in clinical practice. That about six months’ time, people tend to get on top of their shoulder pain and things get better. Forty percent were still disabled to some degree in this study both at work and in their leisure activities at 12 months. It’s a problem that can be ongoing. I relate it back to, are we getting the diagnosis right?

Are we treating it right?

The last little fact here that 65 years or over, the main predominant musculoskeletal problem is going to be shoulder pain. That potentially could be because of deloading, detraining. We’re slowly but surely reaching the age where we die, and potentially our output, the physiological loading, the natural activity levels that we have relative to our age start to drop off. That could have some effect on the intrinsic nature of the actual rotator cuff tissues. If you’ve had a long life of overhead use, overhead sport and then couple that with a deloading type situation when you’re getting older, then potentially that’s why we have these effects.

These are the facts out there. The big things we want to note and that I really pick up in these facts is, what’s the diagnosis? Why are we getting such a high morbidity rate? We’ve got to do better clinically in terms of identifying what the problem is, and then also how we approach fixing that problem. That’s what I think I do well in my practice, and also what we try to do through our online programs here at

I hope you found that interesting. I look forward to seeing you again soon in another episode of Shoulder Guy TV. Bye for now.

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