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Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder Injuries

Minor shoulder problems, such as sore muscles and aches and pains, are common. Shoulder problems develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury to the shoulder or surrounding region. They can also be caused by the natural process of aging. Your shoulder joints move every time you move your arms. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with three main bones: the upper arm bone known as the humerus, collarbone known as the clavicle, and shoulder blade known as the scapula. These bones are held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. Because of this mobility, the shoulder is more likely to be injured or cause an assortment of health problems. The acromioclavicular, or AC joint, which lies over the top of the shoulder, is also a region of the shoulder prone to injury. Shoulder problems can range in severity level from minor to serious. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness, changes in temperature or color, or changes in your range of motion. Shoulder injuries most commonly occur during sports activities, work-related tasks, projects around the home, or falls.

Sudden Acute Shoulder Injuries

Sudden or acute shoulder Injuries are the most common cause of shoulder pain.

A sudden or acute injury to the shoulder may result from falling on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the shoulder, or abnormal twisting or bending of the shoulder. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. If nerves or blood vessels have been injured or pinched during the injury, the shoulder, arm, or hand may feel numb, tingly, weak, or cold, or may appear pale or blue in color. Acute shoulder injuries include:
  • Bruises and contusions, which occur when small blood vessels under the skin of the shoulder tear or rupture, often from a twist, bump, or fall. Blood leaks into tissues under the skin and causes a black-and-blue color that often turns purple, red, yellow, and green as the bruise heals.
  • Injuries to the tough, ropelike fibers known as ligaments that connect bone to bone and help stabilize the shoulder joints.
  • Shoulder sprains.
  • Injuries to the shoulder tendons.
  • Pulled muscles or muscle strains in the shoulder.
  • Nerve injuries or damage, such as brachial plexus neuropathy.
  • Separation of the shoulder, which occurs when the outer end of the collarbone known as the clavicle, separates from the end of the shoulder blade because of torn ligaments. This injury occurs most often from a blow to the shoulder or a fall onto the shoulder or outstretched hand or arm.
  • Damage to one or more of the four tendons that cover the shoulder joint
  • Tearing to the rotator cuff, this may occur from a direct blow to or overstretching of the tendon.
  • Broken bones or fractures in the shoulder. A break may occur when a bone is twisted, struck directly, or used to brace against a fall.
  • Pulling or pushing bones out of their normal relationship to the other bones that make up the shoulder joint known as subluxation or dislocation.

Overuse injuries

You may not recall experiencing a specific shoulder injury, especially if symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities. Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity. Overuse injuries include:
  • Inflammation of the sac of fluid that cushions and lubricates the joint area between one bone and another bone, a tendon, or the skin.
  • Inflammation of the tough, ropelike fibers that connect muscles to bones known as tendinitis. Bicipital tendinitis is an inflammation of one of the tendons that attach the bicep muscles on the front of the humerus bone to the shoulder joint. The inflammation usually occurs along the groove where the tendon passes over the humerus to attach just above the shoulder joint.
  • Muscle strain.
  • A frozen shoulder, which is a condition that limits shoulder movement and may follow an injury.
  • Overhead arm movements, which may cause tendons to rub or scrape against a part of the shoulder blade called the acromion. This rubbing or scraping may lead to abrasion or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons, also known as impingement syndrome.

Other Causes of Shoulder Injury and Shoulder Pain Symptoms

Overuse and acute shoulder injuries are common causes of shoulder pain symptoms. Less common causes of shoulder pain include:
  • Muscle tension or poor posture.
  • Pain that is coming from somewhere in the body other than the shoulder.
  • Breakdown of the cartilage that protects and cushions the shoulder joints, referred to as osteoarthritis.
  • Calcium buildup in the tendons of the shoulder.
  • An irritated or pinched nerve or a herniated disc in the neck.
  • Infection in the skin, joint, bursa, or bone in or surrounding the shoulder or shoulder region.
  • Invasive cancer that has spread to the bones of the shoulder or spine.


Treatment for common shoulder injuries, shoulder pain and strains to the shoulder may include orthopedic shoulder braces and shoulder supports, first aid measures, physical therapy, medicine, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:
  • The location, type, and severity of the injury.
  • How long ago the injury occurred.
  • The patient�s age, health condition, and activity level.

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