The shoulder is one of the more unique joints in the body, in that it allows the greatest range of motion. Unfortunately, this also means that it is also one of the most likely ones to be injured. Sports, work-related tasks, home projects and falls are some of the most common culprits for shoulder problems.
Some of the more common shoulder injury symptoms include pain, inflammation, bruising, stiffness and limited range of motion. Note that in some cases, neck problems might cause shoulder pain and vice versa—neck and shoulder injuries can be difficult to distinguish from one another.
If one also experiences numbness, tingling, weakness or a cold sensation in the shoulder, arm or hand, it might be a sign that one is also dealing with the complication of a shoulder nerve or blood vessel injury. Prompt medical treatment is especially important in such scenarios.
Treatment will depend upon the nature of one’s shoulder injury, as well as the individual’s health, activity level, age, etc. In the following article, we take you through some of the more common shoulder injuries and provide a very cursory overview of appropriate shoulder injury treatment.
Shoulder Blade Injury
A separated shoulder refers to damage to the ligaments that connect the collarbone to one’s shoulder blade. Such injuries are also referred as a shoulder sprain or an acromioclavicular (ACL) joint separation.
In mild cases of this shoulder ligament injury, the soft tissues may simply be overstretched. But in severe cases of these shoulder blade injuries, the ligaments may be completely torn.
A hallmark of an ACL shoulder injury that is typically from a fall directly onto the shoulder or a blow to that area is the formation of a bump at the top of the shoulder.
In most cases, such shoulder blade problems can be fixed via conservative methods, such as rest, ice and shoulder injury exercises and stretches, with the duration of the healing period depending upon the severity of the damage. One may need to immobilize the arm in a sling for a period to reduce pressure on the shoulder and allow healing to occur.
This broken clavicle brace can also help in such instances. The figure-eight brace holds back the shoulders so that one’s clavicle or shoulder joint injuries can heal. This is also good for promoting good posture.
Shoulder Rotator Cuff Injury
Another relatively common type of soft tissue injury to the shoulder is a rotator cuff injury. This refers to damage to the tendons or muscles that cover the shoulder joint that is responsible for holding the upper arm bone within the shoulder socket.
Such shoulder muscle/tendon injuries are most common among those whose jobs or sports involve repeated overhead motions. As you might imagine this is a relatively common volleyball and baseball shoulder injury. Careers such as carpentry or painting also lend themselves to this shoulder tendon injury.
Most individuals can recover from a shoulder cuff injury by performing physical therapy exercises that work on the flexibility and strength of the muscles and other soft tissues surrounding the joint. Applying ice packs for such shoulder injuries can also ease the dull ache rotator cuff tears typically cause.
The Corflex cryo-pneumatic shoulder compression ice wrap makes icing this tricky area of the body much easier and more convenient. You will notice that ice and compression are recommended steps of treatment for many shoulder disorders since these are a simple and effective way of reducing pain and inflammation.
In cases where extensive rotator cuff tears are present, surgical repair, possibly involving the use of other tendons or even joint replacement may be needed. Afterward, one will likely need to wear a shoulder immobilizer and/or a rotator cuff support.
Other possible soft tissue shoulder injuries include sprains or strains. Sprains refer to shoulder ligaments injury, while strains can be a shoulder muscle or tendon injury. In either case, the overstretching of these soft tissues is typically caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm, an abnormal twist of the shoulder or a blow to this area of the arm.
Again, conservative methods of treatment for such shoulder soft tissue injuries such as ice and rest is usually sufficient.
Shoulder Injuries of the Labrum
Another relatively common sports shoulder injury is damage to the labrum. The labrum is a ring of fibrocartilage the surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint, helping to keep the ball of the shoulder within said socket. In some cases that involve a tear to the top part of the labrum, this is referred to as a SLAP (superior labral tear from anterior to posterior) lesion.
A number of factors can cause such shoulder cartilage injury, including a fall onto the arm, forceful pulling or other movements of the arm, shoulder dislocations or repeated overhead motions. The latter cases of repetitive strain injury to the shoulder might be seen among weightlifters or in sports involving throwing. Simply aging can also increase one’s chances of sustaining such an injury.
How one deals with such shoulder or bench press shoulder injuries will depend upon the severity of the tear. If rest and rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles are not enough to relieve one’s shoulder injury pain, arthroscopic surgery to repair damage may be needed.
After surgery, one will likely need to immobilize the shoulder in a sling. This shoulder pillow abduction sling for surgery recovery is well suited for such use as it features a v-lock strapping system and an abduction pillow. The sling for shoulder injuries like labrum tears, shoulder dislocations, rotator cuff injuries and more also comes with an exercise ball that one can squeeze to boost circulation.
Dislocated Shoulder Injury
A dislocated shoulder is an extremely painful shoulder joint injury where one’s upper arm bone is forced out of its socket. Sustaining such injuries to the shoulder can make one’s joint less stable and more prone to dislocation.
Such shoulder joint problems are common in contact sports like hockey or football as well as ones where one might fall. As with many different types of shoulder injuries, trauma can also dislocate one’s shoulder.
Besides severe pain and visible deformity, this can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness in the neck or arm if one is also dealing with shoulder nerve impingement or blood vessel damage.
One should seek medical attention immediately if one suspects this type of shoulder injury. A doctor will attempt to guide one’s humerus bone back into its proper position. If a patient has also suffered nerve, blood vessel or ligament damage or if one is dealing with recurrent shoulder dislocations, one may need shoulder injury surgery to repair the damage.
After the shoulder has been reduced (put back in place), one may need to immobilize it for a few days or weeks. We offer slings and shoulder immobilizers for adults as well as kids. One popular product is our kid's pediatric arm sling and shoulder immobilizer.
After a period of restricted motion, physical therapy will likely be needed to restore function to the shoulder and arm.
Frozen Shoulder Injury
The stiffness, pain, and limited range of motion associated with frozen shoulder injuries typically occur when one stops using the joint normally. This might include an overuse injury, in association with diabetes or after one suffers a stroke. It is most common with chronic disorders of the shoulder.
Frozen shoulder is also a possibility after surgery. Therefore, it is important to follow one’s stretching and exercising instructions to prevent rotator cuff or shoulder replacement problems, for example.
Such diabetic shoulder problems usually develop gradually take a long time to go away, with recovery periods lasting a year or more.
This lengthy process after a frozen shoulder injury diagnosis will likely involve a combination of ice and heat therapy, gentle stretching and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery to loosen the shoulder capsule tissue might be required.
Bursa Shoulder Injury
Inflammation and irritation of one’s bursa is another possible injury to the shoulder. This is typically caused by overuse or injuries of the shoulder, with age increasing one’s risk of developing bursitis. Gardening, shoveling, painting, playing tennis, scrubbing or pitching are just a few examples of high-risk activities when it comes to developing shoulder bursitis.
Treatment for shoulder bursitis begins with avoiding activities that irritate the fluid-filled sac and resting the injured area. Applying ice can also help with such shoulder conditions by reducing inflammation. In some cases, aspiration of the bursa may be necessary.
Warming up before an activity is important to preventing such shoulder injuries from occurring in the first place.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of shoulder injuries. Rather, this article amounts to some of the more common possible shoulder injuries, as well as some basics regarding what one can do for them. Generally speaking, rest, ice and compression are good starting points. But of course, one should always refer to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of shoulder pain/injury.