Study shows connection between lung cancer and shoulder pain

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ISLAMABAD, Mar 15: Most people experience shoulder pain, usually due to inflammation or muscle injuries. Much less frequently, shoulder pain can be a sign of lung cancer. Lung cancer can cause referred pain in the shoulder.

Referred pain is a type of pain that begins in one area of the body but is felt in another. Some types of lung cancer are more likely to cause referred pain than others.

Pancoast tumors are a relatively uncommon form of lung cancer. These tumors are located in a groove at the top of the lungs called the superior sulcus. Because this area is close to the shoulder, it can cause intense shoulder pain on the same side where the cancer develops.

A person who has a pancoast tumor, the type of lung cancer most likely to cause shoulder pain, may also experience a group of symptoms called Horner syndrome.

Shoulder pain can be a frustrating symptom to diagnose. There is no characteristic cluster of shoulder pain symptoms associated with lung cancer. One study of shoulder pain in people with mesothelioma, for example, found that most people thought the pain was minor, ranking it a 4 on a scale of 1-10. A few people, however, experienced more significant symptoms, including decreased mobility.

Some people with cancer-related shoulder pain experience pain in the arms that radiates down to the hands. This pain may also include numbness and tingling.

Shoulder pain is not the most frequent symptom of lung cancer. With the exception of a small number of cases, it’s rarely the first lung cancer symptom.

Common symptoms of non-small cell lung cancer – the most common variety of lung cancer

Most shoulder pain is due to everyday causes, such as slumping in front of a computer or straining a muscle. Many people experience shoulder pain caused by the following:

Short-term injuries due to overextending or overusing the muscles of the shoulder. Symptoms typically occur in the injured shoulder only.
Referred pain from other areas of the body. Neck and back pain may trigger shoulder aches. Weakness in one muscle may cause the shoulder muscles to overcompensate, triggering pain.
Injuries in the spine, such as herniated disks.
Osteoarthritis, which occurs over time as cartilage wears down.
Rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term inflammatory condition.
Tears in the rotator cuff.
Frozen shoulder, an injury that limits mobility. Lack of use, rheumatoid arthritis, and unusual tissue growth in the shoulder may cause frozen shoulder.
Poor posture. Slumping over a computer, holding the body in an awkward position for extended periods, and craning the neck may cause tension and pain in the shoulders. The pain may spread to the neck and back.
Much shoulder pain is temporary, due to overuse, strain, and minor injuries. To treat new shoulder pain, people should try RICE:

Resting the injured shoulder, avoiding excessive movement or weight-bearing
Ice can be applied to the area with an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time
Compressing the area with a bandage or wrap to reduce swelling
Elevating the painful area
Some people also find that switching between heat and ice packs helps to increase blood flow, speeding healing and reducing pain. Gentle stretching, low-impact exercise, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen can also offer relief.

Shoulder pain that lasts more than a few days, that goes away and then comes back, or that is unbearable warrants seeing a doctor.

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