The shoulder is the most movable joint of the body. It also is one of the most unstable joints. As a result, it is the site of many problems and injuries. The following are some of the most common shoulder injuries:
The shoulder is one of the most frequently dislocated joints. Pulling the shoulder backward or rotating it too far can cause the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) to pop out of the socket (glenoid). Shoulder instability is a condition in which the shoulder dislocates frequently. Sometimes the ball of the upper arm bone is only partially out of the socket. This is called a partial location or subluxation.
This injury involves the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade (scapula). The injury occurs when a fall, blow to the shoulder or other trauma tears the ligaments that hold the AC joint together. The outer end of the collarbone may slip out of place, resulting in shoulder pain – ranging from mild to severe – and possibly a bump on the top of the shoulder.
Glenoid labrum tear.
Also called shoulder joint tear, this is an injury to the cartilage that surrounds the rim of the shoulder socket. This injury often results from repetitive motion or trauma from a fall, pull or blow to the shoulder. Symptoms include shoulder pain, loss of strength, decreased range of motion and catching, locking or popping of the shoulder.
Torn rotator cuff.
Overuse, aging, a fall or other type of trauma can strain the rotator cuff tendons, which can cause them to become inflamed, leading to a tear. The rotator cuff is a network of muscles and tendons that cover the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) to hold it place and enable the arm to rotate. If you experience a rotator cuff injury you may experience pain over the deltoid muscle at the top and outer side of the shoulder, especially when you raise or extend your arm out from your body. Your shoulder may feel weak and you may hear a click or pop when you try to move your shoulder.
Also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition in which the shoulder’s movement is severely restricted due to the growth of abnormal bands of tissue (called adhesions) between joint surfaces and a lack of synovial fluid to lubricate the joint. Frozen shoulder may have several different causes, including an injury that forces you to stop using your shoulder due to pain, arthritis or recent surgery.
A shoulder fracture is a brake or crack in one of the bones of the shoulder, which usually occurs from a fall or blow. The most commonly fractured areas in the shoulder are the collarbone, or clavicle, and the top of the upper arm bone, or humerus, just below the ball. A shoulder fracture usually causes severe pain, with redness and bruising.
This condition is a form of tendinitis in which an inflamed and thickened rotator cuff gets squeezed by or impinged on by the acromion, or edge of the shoulder blade, when the arm is moved. Impingement is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain.
Bursitis is inflammation of bursae (singular: bursa) small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate large joints, such as the knees, hips and shoulders. Bursitis in the shoulder can have a number of causes including an injury or underlying form of arthritis or rheumatic disease. The result can be pain, swelling and tenderness in the affected area, particularly with motion.
Within 48 hours of the injury, you should also begin self-care measures. Use the acronym RICE to help remember these treatments:
- Rest. Take a break from activity. Avoid using your injured shoulder ankle.
- Ice. Place an ice pack on your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Compression. Compress the shoulder with an elastic bandage to help stabilize the shoulder and reduce swelling.
- Elevation. As much as possible, keep your shoulder elevated higher than your heart. Use pillows to prop up your shoulder when you lie down.
Whether you have an acute injury or chronic arthritis, medications don’t always relieve pain completely.
Hot and Cold.
While cold is helpful for reducing inflammation from a new shoulder injury, it also can be helpful for chronic pain or for the pain and inflammation of an arthritis flare. For aching shoulders without acute inflammation, heat may provide relief.
In the early stages of arthritis, physical therapy may be helpful for strengthening the shoulder muscles and maintaining joint range of motion.
A technique in which a weak electric current is administered through electrodes placed on the skin, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. TENS is believed to stop messages from pain receptors from reaching the brain. It may be useful for short-term pain control in some people with shoulder arthritis.
For certain shoulder fractures, including most fractures of the scapula, nonsurgical treatment using a sling to immobilize the joint is an effective treatment. The shoulder may be stiff when your doctor first removes the sling. An exercise or physical therapy program will be necessary to regain full motion of the shoulder after immobilization.
Electrical stimulation of muscle tissue (called neuromuscular electrical stimulation) around the shoulder may be useful for strengthening the muscles that support the joint and relieving pain in and around the joint. In the shoulder, this technique may be a helpful adjunct to surgical treatment for rotator cuff tears.
It can be hard to perform daily tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, driving etc. Devices available include reachers, zipper pulls, long-handled brushes or sponges and specially designed adaptive clothing. You can buy many assistive devices through medical supply stores and specialized mail-order catalogs. Talk to your doctor and physical and/or occupational therapist about using these assistive devices.