Got shoulder pain? There may be more to it than a long tennis match or just "sleeping on it wrong." A new study from the University of Utah recently resulted in findings linking shoulder discomfort like joint pain and rotator cuff injury to an elevated risk for heart disease.
More specifically, the study results suggest that the common risk factors for heart disease are correlated with the likelihood of having shoulder problems. A causative relationship has yet to be uncovered.
"If someone has rotator cuff problems, it could be a sign that there is something else going on," said lead author Kurt Hegmann, MD, MPH. "They may need to manage risk factors for heart disease."
Based upon research studies conducted in the past that linked increased heart disease risk to health problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, and tennis elbow, Hegmann and his team focused their research specifically on shoulder problems. They compared the number of risk factors for heart disease an individual has to the likelihood of the same individual having shoulder problems, and their results seemed to show that the more risk factors an individual had, the more likely they were to also have a shoulder issue.
Remarkably, a second part of the study showed that the amount of strain on the body from a person's occupation does not affect likelihood of shoulder pain any more than the presence of heart disease risk factors. Researchers examined over 1,200 skilled laborers with varying amounts of strain experienced in their jobs, but the strain levels did not seem to make a difference in the effect on shoulder health.
"High force can accelerate rotator cuff issues but it is not the primary driver," Hegmann suggested. "Cardiovascular disease risk factors could be more important than job factors for incurring these types of problems."
More studies will be done to further investigate a potential cause and effect relationship between risk factors for heart disease and shoulder problems. With more connections to be drawn between the two, it is possible that in the future doctors will suggest to patients to keep heart disease risk factors under control in order to combat shoulder pain.
The current study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.