for the last 8 or 9 months I've experienced severe pain and weakness in my left shoulder (and thus my grasp) when I reach back, (say I'm in the front seat of the car and reach to grab something from the back seat). The pain only lasts 10-20 seconds or so, therefore I was chalking it up to the many joys of getting older -- I'm 52. It's kinda a burning sensation. Haven't noticed that Naproxen (which I take for the occasional allergy symptom and pseudo-arthrisis in my toes) have had any effect on my shoulder. My concern is I'm experiencing the pain more frequently such as while reaching up to slip on a dress. Sometimes the pain extends to my elbow. I really find myself devising ways to accomplish activities of daily living that will allow me to "baby" my shoulder. I haven't had a recent injury that I can recall, though I'm chained to a computer 30 hrs a week, play tug of war with my weedy garden and try to complete some simply DIY projects around the house.
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with your doctor.
Without the ability to examine you and obtain a history, I can not tell you what the exact cause of your symptoms is. However I will try to provide you with some useful information.
There are several possibilities to explain your symptoms. A non-neurologic, musculoskeletal cause such as rotator cuff syndrome, other tendinitis, etc. These are best evaluated by a rheumatologist or orthopedic specialist.
Of the neurologic causes, there are some nerve entrapment syndromes that can lead to pain in the shoulder with weakness. Nerve entrapments are more common in the forearm or hand (such as in carpal tunnel syndrome) but can occur in the shoulder region, leading to proximal muscle weakness (i.e. the arm from the shoulder, rather than for example grip weakness from weakness in the fingers). Nerve entrapments are best evaluated for by a neurologist, based on the history and examination, and sometimes, a study called EMG/NCS which tests how nerves conduct electricity and how muscles respond.
Another possibility is a radiculopathy. The spinal cord is encased by bones called vertebra. Nerves start to form as they come off the spinal cord and exit through holes formed between the vertebra. If a nerve is compressed on as it exits through these holes, particularly in an area called the nerve root, a radiculopathy results. The compression could be due to arthritis of the spine or due to a herniated disc or other lesions. The symptoms include pain at the level of the problem (i.e. neck or back etc) and pain that may radiate down the arm or leg (depending on where the problem is). In more advanced cases, muscle weakness or sensory symptoms such as tingling or numbness may occur. A radiculopathy is often diagnosed based on history, physical examination, and MRI of the spine.
A muscle disorder is a less likely cause given the description you provide but in general myopathies (muscle disorders) lead to weakness proximally (in the shoulder or hip girdle etc).
Evaluation by a general practioner (family physician, internist) is recommended, and after he/she examines you and obtains a history, he/she will be able to decide on appropriate testing, treatment, and the need to see specialists as indicated.
Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions, I hope you find the information
I have provided useful, good luck.
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