Unlike any other joint in the body, the shoulder joint boasts the greatest range of mobility. Even the slightest arm motion is supported by the ball and socket in your shoulder; hence, overuse of the joint is inevitable. Unfortunately, as you grow older, these overworked joints can lead to different types of shoulder conditions or injuries. Apart from aging, there are many other ways in which one may suffer from a shoulder injury including exercising, playing sports, having a fall, or doing just about any task that overuses or misuses shoulder joints and muscles. When this happens, mobility of the shoulders will be accompanied by aches, tingling, numbness, or even swelling.
Made up of three distinct bones — the shoulder blade, collarbone, and humerus — injuries may affect the shoulder joint, or one of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons that support the shoulder bones. Regardless of what type of shoulder injury you have, the symptoms that come with it will be your first indication that something is wrong, and a trip to an orthopedic specialist is in order.
To shed more light on the type of shoulder injury one might be dealing with, or may potentially experience in the future, shared below are the top 5 most common shoulder injuries.
1. Rotator Cuff Strain
One of the symptoms of a rotator cuff strain is pain experienced in the shoulder when the arm extends upward and away from the side of your body. Because this part of your shoulder is made up of tendons and muscles, tears are also common when subjected to excessive activity involving overhead arm movement.
Most rotator cuff injuries can be treated with physical therapy while they can be avoided altogether by strengthening the shoulder muscles (unless age is a factor). If a muscle or tendon in the rotator cuff group tears, surgery for the same may be a requirement. In these cases, the patient will experience severe pain with any type of arm movement.
2. Shoulder Impingement
To define this shoulder injury in short, it is when the acromion (the top edge of the shoulder blade) comes in contact or rubs against the group of muscles and tendons below, otherwise known as the rotator cuff. This can cause symptoms such as pain in the front of the shoulder, weakness in the arm or shoulder, pain on the side of the arm running down from the shoulder, and dull pain in the arm.
Like rotator cuff disease, shoulder impingement is often caused by a continuous overhead motion of the arms. Swimmers, tennis players, painters, and carpenters are a few groups of people who are at risk of this injury owing to the activities involved in their respective professions. As far as treatment goes, it depends on the diagnosis or severity of the injury. Resting the shoulder followed by physical therapy is typically advised while medication and surgery is usually a last resort.
3. Dislocated Shoulder
A sudden jerk or blow to the shoulder can cause the upper bone to dislocate from the socket attached to the shoulder blade. When this happens, one may experience sharp pain, swelling, bruising, and deformity around the shoulder. With a dislocated shoulder injury, you will also lose mobility of the shoulder joint until the bone is pushed back into the socket.
Treatment by a physiotherapist or any bone specialist is advised as opposed to attempting to fix the problem yourself. Without professional attention, the patient may cause more damage to the shoulder joint and muscles and tendons surrounding it. Typically, a dislocated shoulder injury should heal completely in 2-3 weeks, however, the recovery period will depend on one’s age and medical background.
4. Biceps Tendinopathy
If you experience pain along the front of your arm starting from the shoulder and running down the bicep that connects the upper tendon to the elbow, there is a good chance you may have biceps tendinopathy – an injury wherein the said tendon becomes inflamed. Along with pain, one might also experience weakness in the arm, and soreness around the bicep muscle when attempting to lift weight or perform overhead arm movements.
Typically caused by the overuse of the tendon, patients of biceps tendinopathy are advised adequate rest and prescribed medication to allow the tendon to heal without surgery. Of course, in serious cases where part of the tendon has torn, some type of surgical procedure will be required to repair it.
5. Upper Trapezius Strain
The upper back muscles located on either side of the spine support arm and shoulder mobility, especially overhead motions. Known as the left and right trapezius, the stronger these muscles are, the less prone they are to injury. Strains, however, occur when you suddenly overwork the trapezius with workouts or consistent movements while playing sports and other activities.
With this type of shoulder injury, the muscles stretch too much, causing soreness and pain. Upper trapezius strains are very common and quite minor compared to other types of shoulder injuries. Patients must ice the area and rest as long as required or as directed by their physician.
Like any type of bodily injury, one must not take a shoulder injury lightly as the condition may worsen and, in turn, require advanced treatments such as surgery and heavy medication. If you are experiencing sudden pain in your shoulder(s), make an appointment to see your physician as soon as possible.