It is likely that you have a chronic shoulder rotator cuff problem and also an element of nerve root entrapment which is arising from your neck. The rotator cuff muscles move the shoulder and the associated tendons can get injured when doing heavy repetitive movements particularly above the head – e.g. lifting weights or cutting a high hedge. Swelling around those tendons results in shoulder pain with catching in certain positions. The shoulder and neck work together, so if the shoulder becomes dysfunctional the neck becomes tight with trapping of the nerve roots as they exit from the neck.
The tingling sensation in the thumb that you describe is typical of nerve root entrapment. It sounds like you have some chronic scarring/thickening of your rotator if this has been bothering you on and off for years. I would advise that you see a physical therapist for treatment but also to give you advice regarding shoulder and neck care in the longer term. If the symptoms don't settle, it would be worth getting a referral to a musculoskeletal doctor to decide on the most appropriate investigations and treatment. If the problem keeps recurring and if standard physical therapies don't work, it is possible that an operation called 'subacromial decompression' may be an option.
Answered by Dr A Wright.
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