Shoulder pain may be linked to increased heart disease risk

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Here’s a surprising twist: Shoulder pain during holiday gift wrapping might not be due to all that heavy lifting!

Scientists at the University of Utah School of Medicine have found another possible reason – your heart health.

Their recent study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, explains that individuals with symptoms indicating an increased risk of heart disease might be more prone to shoulder problems.

This includes joint pain and injuries to the rotator cuff – the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint.

According to lead author Kurt Hegmann, if you’re having shoulder issues, particularly with your rotator cuff, it might be a signal to check your heart health risks.

We often blame overuse and strain for shoulder troubles. For instance, think of a baseball pitcher who throws the ball a hundred times a day. But while that can certainly cause irritation, these scientists are saying other factors might be equally important.

In fact, earlier studies had found a similar link between heart disease risk and other musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and tennis elbow.

Hegmann’s team took this discovery a step further. Their study found that the more heart disease risk factors the participants had – like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes – the more likely they were to suffer from shoulder problems.

The 36 participants with the most severe heart risk factors were 4.6 times more likely to have had shoulder joint pain and almost six times more likely to have had rotator cuff tendinopathy, a condition that involves pain and weakness in the shoulder. Even those with mid-level heart risk were somewhat more likely to have shoulder issues.

Now, the scientists are careful to point out that these are just shared trends and we need more research to prove that heart risk actually causes shoulder problems.

In the study, they also examined 1,226 workers, like airbag manufacturers, meat processors, and cabinet makers, whose jobs involve physical strain. But it turns out, a tougher job did not mean more shoulder problems. And neither did spending more time doing physical activities.

Hegmann suggests that while physical force can worsen rotator cuff issues, it’s probably not the main cause. It seems that heart disease risk factors might be more crucial.

So, it’s possible that keeping an eye on your blood pressure and other heart health indicators could help you avoid shoulder pain. Now that’s something to consider next time your shoulders feel sore after gift wrapping!