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Does diabetes cause shoulder pain?

3 minutes, 43 seconds

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects 11% of the U.S. population and millions of people worldwide. While diabetes is primarily known for its impact on blood sugar control, it can also lead to a variety of other health complications, including shoulder pain. In fact, about 21% of diabetic patients reported experiencing shoulder stiffness and pain.

Diabetes-related shoulder pain can be caused by a number of underlying conditions that can be linked to shoulder pain, stiffness and limited mobility, making it difficult to perform daily activities. Understanding the causes and risk factors of diabetes-related shoulder pain, as well as the available treatment options like physical therapy, can help individuals with diabetes manage their condition and improve their quality of life. 

What are the connections between diabetes and shoulder pain?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the body's ability to use and store sugar and can lead to a wide range of health complications. While diabetes is not typically associated with shoulder pain, the disease can lead to other conditions that can cause shoulder pain. These include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy — Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that results from nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels. High levels of sugar in the blood of a diabetic patient can damage the small blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. This damage can affect different types of nerves, including sensory nerves, motor nerves, and autonomic nerves, which control the functions of the body's internal organs. It can cause pain, numbness and tingling in the shoulders as well as other parts of the body.
  • Frozen shoulder syndrome — Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder syndrome is a condition where the shoulder joint gradually becomes stiff and painful over time, making it difficult to move the arm. People with diabetes are five times more likely to develop frozen shoulder syndrome, most likely due to changes to the blood vessels and nerves that supply the shoulder. These changes can cause inflammation and damage the shoulder joint.
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis — Rotator cuff tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder. It can occur as a result of overuse or injury, and it's a common condition among people who engage in repetitive overhead motions, such as athletes and manual laborers. People with diabetes may have an increased risk of developing rotator cuff tendinitis than nondiabetic people.
  • Rheumatoid arthritisRheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints and other body tissue, including the shoulders. Diabetes can cause changes in the immune system that make it more susceptible to developing autoimmune disorders like RA. Symptoms of RA in the shoulders can include joint stiffness, inflammation, pain and lack of mobility. 

It is important to note that shoulder pain can be caused by a number of other conditions as well, so it is essential to consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What can you do about diabetes-related shoulder pain?

If you are experiencing shoulder pain as a result of diabetes, there are several things you can do to manage the pain and improve your quality of life:

  • Control your blood sugar — The most important step in managing diabetes-related shoulder pain is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. This can be done through diet, exercise and medication as prescribed by your health care provider.
  • Go to physical therapy — Studies show that physical therapy is effective in helping diabetic patients manage their shoulder pain symptoms. A physical therapist can introduce diabetic patients to exercises that can improve their range of motion and shoulder strength, reducing their pain and discomfort. Physical therapists can also perform modalities like myofascial release techniques to help relax the muscles and reduce pain.
  • Use heat and cold therapy — Applying heat or cold to a painful shoulder can help reduce pain and inflammation.

It's important to work closely with your doctor and health care team to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring of your diabetes are essential in the management of diabetes-related shoulder pain.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for diabetes-related shoulder pain 

Diabetes and shoulder pain don’t seem to go together, but many diabetic patients are at a higher risk of developing shoulder stiffness and pain. Physical therapy can help diabetic patients ease their shoulder pain so they can focus on maintaining their health. At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your diabetes-related shoulder pain.

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Come find help for your condition today!


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