A new study carried out by the Utah School of Medicine has established a link between shoulder pain and heart disease.
According to the study, those suffering with shoulder pain may be at an increased risk of heart disease. In particular, rotator cuff issues can indicate a much more serious problem and patients may need more than simple shoulder treatment to address their health.
Study intensifies heart-disease connection
Shoulder pain has already been suspected to be linked to heart disease and this latest study further strengthens the connection. It appears patients who have an increased risk of heart disease are also susceptible to musculoskeletal disorders such as tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Results of the study, published within the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed the more heart disease risks participants had, the more likely they were to suffer problems with the shoulder. This includes conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
A total of 36 participants experiencing the highest heart disease risk factors were shown to have a 4.6 times increased risk of developing shoulder pain. Interestingly, they were also six times more probable to suffer from a second shoulder problem known as rotator cuff tendinopathy.
Heart disease more likely than physical strain to cause shoulder issues
There are a lot of contributing factors which can lead to the development of shoulder pain. Most commonly reported is physical strain. However, the study included 1226 labourers and results showed a shoulder-straining job did not increase the risk of shoulder injuries in comparison to those with heart disease risk factors.
Of course, that isn’t to say straining jobs don’t accelerate rotator cuff injuries, but what it does show mean is they aren’t the primary cause. In patients who do present with shoulder pain, particularly rotator cuff injuries, cardiovascular health is more likely to play a role in its development.
The data collected by the study now needs to be properly analysed, which lead researcher, Dr Kurt Hegmann estimates will take around five years.
How can heart disease contribute towards shoulder pain?
Currently researchers don’t know for certainty why heart disease links to shoulder pain. However, there is a theory that it could be caused by a decreased blood supply to the shoulder, leading to weakened tendons. This would therefore increase the chances of injury.
Shoulder pain is also associated as a warning sign for a heart attack, most commonly if intense pain is felt suddenly down the left arm. This is caused by a blockage in the arteries, typically brought on by high cholesterol.
Overall, this new study is one of the most in-depth carried out to establish the link between heart disease and shoulder pain. It followed participants for a total of nine years and covered a wide range of risk factors. While it is important to note that it purely points out a link and not a cause and effect between heart disease and shoulder pain, it’s still a factor to be aware of when seeking treatment.