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It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 65, the shoulder is one area of your body that can be a real pain – literally.
But the cause of shoulder pain varies as you age. Children and teens may find that sports takes a toll on the shoulder joint, with overuse injuries like tendonitis or more serious injuries like separation or dislocation.
Later in life, when you’re less likely to pitch a few too many innings, or to take a hit on the gridiron, your shoulder can still be a concern. The rotator cuff starts wearing down around the age of 30, and by 40, partial tears of the tendons are normal.
“They all have their own personality,” he says, “so partial tears or very small tears can be monitored and treated symptomatically.”
In many cases the patient may not even realize there is a tear.
Arthritis in the shoulder is also a very real concern, especially after you hit 50. It can be caused by a general wearing down of the shoulder joint – a condition that’s known as osteoarthritis – or result directly from a previous rotator cuff injury. Whatever the cause, doctors may suggest rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, injections or, if other treatments have been unsuccessful, surgery. “We like to start with the most basic and work up to the most invasive,” says Terpstra.
But how do you know if the nagging pain in your shoulder is worth a trip to the doctor? “The best way is if you start having problems with daily function or problems sleeping, that’s a sign you should get in and get this checked out,” advises Terpstra.