The shoulder is one of the most complex and moveable joints in the body. It is composed of the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). Working in tandem with these bones are muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which anchor the shoulder in a stable position. When any of these areas are damaged, it can impact the entire joint and limit movability. Because of the complexity of the joint, it is frequently the site of injury. If you are experiencing stiffness, feel as if your shoulder could pop out of the socket, or are lacking strength in the shoulder, it is highly likely that you have an injured shoulder.
Common Shoulder Injuries
- Instability: Instability usually occurs as a result of overstretched muscles and ligaments around the shoulder. It is frequently seen in athletes, such as baseball pitchers, who perform the same muscle movement over and over. These motions are beyond the normal range of the shoulder’s capability. Usually the result of instability is pain, weakness, or feeling that the shoulder is not secure.
- Separation: Rather than just an overstretch, separation (or sprain) occurs when there is a tear in the ligaments that hold the clavicle to the roof of the shoulder. When these ligaments tear, the clavicle forms a bump at the top of the shoulder. Sprains most frequently result from falls when the hand is used to brace the impact. After the injury, the pain is usually severe, and leads to swelling in the area.
- Rotator Cuff: The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that allow the range of motion of the shoulder. If there is damage to any of these muscles, the mobility of the arm and shoulder are severely limited. Rotator cuff tears occur most often in middle aged or elderly adults with preexisting shoulder conditions. With age, the tendons lose strength. There is a poor blood supply in this area of the body, leading to further deterioration. Repetitive movements cause stress on the tendon, causing partial or total tears.
- Frozen Shoulder: This condition causes extreme pain in the shoulder when it is moved in any direction. Sometimes, when there is a minor shoulder injury that heals with scar tissue, the healing process ‘freezes’ the shoulder in a certain position that makes it difficult and painful to move. It can also occur when there have been long periods of immobility of the shoulder. This ailment is still somewhat unexplained and difficulty in determining a definite cause.
- Arthritis: Arthritis impacts the cartilage that lines the shoulder joint. When the cartilage is worn away, joints become enlarged and do not function effectively. It can also lead to debilitating pain in the area because of the lack of protection of the joint. Arthritis can develop as a result of overuse and repetitive motions that wear out the cartilage.
Shoulder Injury Treatments
Depending on the severity of your shoulder injury, and the specific condition presenting, there are a number of treatment options available. Some of these options include:
- Physical Therapy: For patients with conditions like adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), physical therapy is a viable treatment option to reduce pain and regain function. Therapists work to increase flexibility and range of motion, as well as improving strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. By using your own muscular ability, you can strengthen the shoulder safely with the supervision of a professional that will ensure proper alignment and correct movement.
- Corticosteroid Injections: In selective individuals, these injections, in combination with rehabilitation, may reduce the need for surgery. Cortisone is a potent anti-inflammatory medication. In both acute and chronic conditions, its ability to reduce swelling may relieve pain as well as inhibit scar formation. Corticosteroid injections are particularly useful for these shoulder conditions: problems of the rotator cuff (partial tears, tendonosis, impingement, and bursitis); osteoarthritis or osteolysis; and frozen shoulder.
- Surgical Options: For cases with more severe damage or torn ligaments, surgery may be presented as an option. Surgery can be utilized to entirely replace the shoulder, in severe cases, or to repair damaged areas that will not heal on their own. Frequently, when shoulder injuries are not addressed to resolve on their own, there is improper alignment, which makes the pain worse and limits motion. After surgery, physical therapy is often required to regain strength in the shoulder and ensure proper healing.
At Montvale Health Sport & Spine, we utilize a comprehensive team approach. Our team includes orthopedists who specialize in different types of injuries, including those that impact the shoulder, as well as those specifically stemming from sports. In addition to orthopedists, there are pain management specialists available to minimize the pain that accompanies shoulder injuries. Regardless of your treatment plan, our pain management doctors can make the activities of daily life easier to perform.
If you have been experiencing shoulder pain or weakness that is interfering with your life, it may be time to visit a physician. At Montvale Health Sport & Spine, our experienced team is available to treat your injury with the least invasive options possible. We treat the injury from start to finish, and have different team members that manage each step of the process. By scheduling an appointment with one of our experts, you can start the journey of feeling better and getting your life back. To make an appointment, please call 201-391-8282.