Shoulder Pain and Injuries

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Whether you’re throwing a ball in the backyard or reaching to pick up your grandchild, your shoulders are key to your body’s mobility. Shoulders consist of several joints that, combined with tendons and muscles, allow a wide range of motion in your arms.

Causes of shoulder pain, strain, stiffness and other injuries can originate from a multitude of sources, depending on age and activity.

Rotator cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles around your shoulder blade that enable you to raise and rotate the arm. Rotator cuff problems are common shoulder conditions for all ages, and it can be injured or torn after falling or trying to lift or catch a heavy object with an extended arm. The rotator cuff can also become injured over time with repetitive activity. Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include tenderness and soreness in the shoulder. You might not be able to raise your arm without pain. It may be difficult to sleep. Even putting on clothes can be painful and difficult. Athletes might also develop a labrum tear, which feels like a catching, locking or grinding in the shoulder joint. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury and may include medications and rest, physical therapy, steroid injections or surgery.

Shoulder pain from arthritis

Adults may develop osteoarthritis, which can cause painful movement, swelling and stiffness. Arthritis occurs when the smooth surfaces of the cartilage that line the bones of the shoulder joint are worn away. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, osteoarthritis may be related to sports or work injuries, as well as chronic wear and tear. Other types of arthritis can be related to rotator cuff tears or inflammation. Treatments by our staff for arthritis in the shoulder depend on the severity of your pain. The usual treatments are rest, medications to help with inflammation and cortisone injections. In some cases, a replacement of the shoulder joint is needed.

Shoulder injury from overuse or under-use

Increase in activity can place great stress on the shoulders and lead to strain or loss of flexibility. This problem becomes more common as we age and can also occur with "weekend warriors" who don't exercise regularly, but occasionally participate in an intense sport or activity. Prolonged immobility of the joint can lead to conditions like a frozen shoulder, usually due to inactivity post-treatment. Although painful and inconvenient, overuse or stiffness problems can often be treated with rest, medications, and physical therapy. Sometimes, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

Shoulder arthroscopy (Scope)

Our orthopedic physicians use arthroscopy to look inside your shoulder joint. An arthroscope is a small, tube-shaped camera used to look in a joint. Sometimes arthroscopy can show soft tissue injuries that are not obvious in other diagnostic tests. During this procedure, our surgeons can often both find the cause of your shoulder pain, as well as correct it.

Video Library

  • What is Shoulder Arthritis?
  • The Basics of Shoulders
  • Treating Your Shoulder
  • Recovering from a Shoulder Injury
  • What is a Frozen Shoulder?
  • Causes and Treatments of the Rotator Cuff
  • Total Shoulder Arthroplasty