Shoulder Pain Radiating Down Arm When Using Strength, Is It A Tear?


Asked by philindapolly

Shoulder Pain Radiating Down Arm When Using Strength, Is It A Tear?

I hurt my arm some time ago when a person pulled me from the floor by my arm and it hurt my shoulder. Time helped, and it mostly healed. I then tried to put compression stockings on a person's foot and when I pulled the stocking open to put over the foot, I got a pain in my shoulder which radiated down my arm. It hurt to straighten my arm, but I could do it slowly. I tried again to do the stockings (yes, stupid) and it hurt worse, so I gave up.

Now, doing various little things with that arm sometimes triggers the radiating pain down my arm and makes it painful to move. I have to move gradually to straighten my arm. Walking my Great Dane of course does not help it, either. I had it X-rayed before the stocking pain-inducing event and it did not show rotator cuff problems. It does not hurt all the time, just when I reach, pul, push, or other things; sometimes it hurts a little, sometimes a lot. If I lean on my elbow and support my chin, when I move then the shoulder/arm pain hurts. It is a habit when reading email and I remember and then it hurts when I move from leaning.

All of this pain has happened just since I tried to hold open the compression stockings with each hand pulling them open and holding it open. Does it sound like I could have torn something at that point? All my GP says is "Ice it." I am on Medicare and doctors and MRIs cost me so much more expense, so I am wondering if this sounds like a tear that I should have addressed. Could it just be bicep tendonitis? I am really needing to know what I should do. I have osteoporosis, but not osteoarthritis that I am aware of. Thank you in advance for any help.


Your shoulder pains sound an awful lot like a rotator cuff injury. Quite honestly a good physical exam of the shoulder is all that is need to diagnose a rotator cuff injury. I test the resisted strength of each of the muscles that create the cuff: infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

An MRI is rarely need unless the exam pointed to extreme weakness in one of those muscles that would likely be due to a full tear. People get partial tears and tendonitis all the time, but MRI's and surgery are usually not necessary for those cases.

Quick, get yourself to a physical therapist in order to use your 2012 physical therapy visits allowed by Medicare. Then you can roll into your 2013 physical therapy visits if necessary. A good physical therapist is probably all that you need to solve your shoulder problems.

You can also read about my recommended shoulder tricks.

Dr. Christina Lasich, MD

Here are some other links on pain management that you might find useful:

Why Yoga Can Help Soothe Many Types of Chronic Pain

Using Tylenol Responsibly

Let's Talk Pain Meds

Answered by Christina Lasich, MD