Shoulder pain linked to increased heart disease risk

December 27, 2016, University of Utah Health Sciences

After all the lifting, hauling, and wrapping, worn out gift givers may blame the season's physical strain for any shoulder soreness they are feeling. It turns out there could be another reason. A new study led by investigators at the University of Utah School of Medicine finds that individuals with symptoms that put them at increased risk for heart disease could be more likely to have shoulder problems, including joint pain and rotator cuff injury.

"If someone has problems, it could be a sign that there is something else going on. They may need to manage risk factors for heart disease," says the study's lead author Kurt Hegmann, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and Director of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. The research was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Repeated physical stress is most frequently blamed for aggravating shoulder joints and the muscles and tendons that surround them. Think about a pitcher who throws a baseball 100 times a day. While physical exertion can certainly be an irritant, accumulating evidence points other factors that could also be at play. Previous research found that people who had an increased risk for heart disease also had a tendency toward carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and tennis elbow, all musculoskeletal disorders.

The current study by Hegmann and colleagues adds shoulder problems to the list and takes the connection one step further. The more risk factors that each of the study participants had racked up - including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes - the more likely they were to have had shoulder trouble.

36 participants with the most severe collection of risk factors were 4.6 times more likely than those with none of the risk factors to have had shoulder joint pain. They were also nearly six times more likely to have had a second shoulder condition, rotator cuff tendinopathy. Participants with mid-level heart risk were less likely to have had either shoulder condition, at 1.5 to 3-fold. Shared trends bolster that there could be a relationship between heart risk and shoulder problems, but researchers will need to follow up with a prospective study to prove cause and effect.

It may seem like physical strain would be at least just as likely to cause shoulder pain but data from the 1,226 skilled laborers who took part in the study suggest otherwise. Ergonomists carefully monitored airbag manufacturers, meat, processors, cabinet makers and skilled laborers. Every forceful twist, push, and pull was factored into a strain index assigned to each worker. But a more straining job did not translate to an uptick in shoulder difficulties. Nor did more time spent doing other physical activities.

"What we think we are seeing is that high force can accelerate rotator cuff issues but is not the primary driver," says Hegmann. "Cardiovascular disease risk factors could be more important than job factors for incurring these types of problems."

He says it's possible that controlling blood pressure and other heart could alleviate discomfort, too.

Explore further: Rat study provides insights on tendon overuse injuries

Related Stories

Rat study provides insights on tendon overuse injuries

December 21, 2016
In research conducted in rats, investigators have shown for the first time the effect of rotator cuff tendon overuse, or tendinopathy, on surrounding tissues.

Why treating shoulder pain in baseball pitchers is so difficult

December 9, 2014
Results of treating shoulder pain in baseball pitchers and other throwing athletes are not as predictable as doctors, patients and coaches would like to think, according to a report in the journal Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ...

PCPs can use U/S to rationalize Tx in acute shoulder pain

January 22, 2015
(HealthDay)—For patients with acute shoulder pain, ultrasound imaging can be used by primary care physicians to rationalize treatment, according to a study published in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family ...

Melatonin may mediate nocturnal pain from shoulder disorders

July 16, 2014
(HealthDay)—For patients with shoulder disorders such as a rotator cuff tear or frozen shoulder, melatonin may mediate nocturnal pain, according to a study published in the July 2 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Why is calcific tendinitis so painful?

February 3, 2016
Calcific tendinitis of the shoulder, typically characterized by calcium deposits on the rotator cuff, is an extremely painful condition that can severely impair movement and life quality. A new study appearing in today's ...

No need to delay rotator cuff surgery, study shows

March 28, 2015
Delaying rotator cuff surgery on patients with shoulder stiffness may not be necessary, according to research presented today at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's (AOSSM) Specialty Day.

Recommended for you

Drug may help surgical patients stop opioids sooner

December 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Opioid painkillers after surgery can be the first step toward addiction for some patients. But a common drug might cut the amount of narcotics that patients need, a new study finds.

Children best placed to explain facts of surgery to patients, say experts

December 13, 2017
Getting children to design patient information leaflets may improve patient understanding before they have surgery, finds an article in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Burn victim saved by skin grafts from identical twin (Update)

November 23, 2017
A man doomed to die after suffering burns across 95 percent of his body was saved by skin transplants from his identical twin in a world-first operation, French doctors said Thursday.

Is a common shoulder surgery useless?

November 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—New research casts doubt on the true effectiveness of a common type of surgery used to ease shoulder pain.

Study shows electric bandages can fight biofilm infection, antimicrobial resistance

November 6, 2017
Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have shown - for the first time - that special bandages using weak electric fields to disrupt bacterial biofilm infection can prevent infections, combat antibiotic ...

Obesity increases incidence, severity, costs of knee dislocations

November 3, 2017
A new study of more than 19,000 knee dislocation cases in the U.S. between 2000 and 2012 provides a painful indication of how the nation's obesity epidemic is changing the risk, severity and cost of a traumatic injury.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.