In Summary
  • It may seem like physical strain would be at least just as likely to cause shoulder pain, but data from the 1,226 skilled labourers who took part in the research suggest otherwise.
  • A more straining job did not translate to an uptick in shoulder difficulties, nor did more time spent doing other physical activities.

A new study led by investigators at the University of Utah in the United States has found that individuals with symptoms that put them at increased risk for heart disease could be more likely to have shoulder problems, including joint pain and rotator cuff injury, the institution said in a press release on Monday.

Repeated physical stress is most frequently blamed for aggravating shoulder joints and the muscles and tendons that surround them. While physical exertion can certainly be an irritant, accumulating evidence points other factors that could also be at play.

Previous research had found that people who had an increased risk for heart disease also had a tendency toward carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendinitis and tennis elbow, all musculoskeletal disorders.

This one, “Association Between Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy”, adds shoulder problems to the list and takes the connection one step further: the more heart disease risk factors that each of the study’s participants had racked up, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, the more likely they were to have had shoulder trouble.

It may seem like physical strain would be at least just as likely to cause shoulder pain, but data from the 1,226 skilled labourers who took part in the research suggest otherwise. A more straining job did not translate to an uptick in shoulder difficulties, nor did more time spent doing other physical activities.

“What we think we are seeing is that high force can accelerate rotator cuff issues but is not the primary driver,” says the study’s lead author Kurt Hegmann, professor of family and preventive medicine and director of Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Utah. “Cardiovascular disease risk factors could be more important than job factors for incurring these types of problems.”

The paper is in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.