How Your Shoulder Works and What Can Go Wrong

How Your Shoulder Works and What Can Go Wrong

Your shoulder is the most flexible joint in your body. It enables you to move your arms 360 degrees in a circle, turn them inward or outward, and more. You can’t make all of those motions with any other joint. 

Because it’s the most flexible joint, it can be easily injured. Your shoulder is composed of bones, more than 10 muscles, and quite a few ligaments and tendons. A lot can go wrong. 

Our board-certified orthopaedic surgeons at Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine treat many patients who have shoulder injuries. As sports medicine specialists, we can get you back on the playing field, the dance floor, or in the garden. 

Rotator cuff injury

If you play a sport or work at a job requiring frequent use of your arm, especially overhead use, you’re more prone to a rotator cuff injury than the general population. 

Several muscles form a cuff around your upper arm bone; this gives the injury its name. At one end is the shoulder blade, and the other is the arm bone. A tendon on each of the muscles attaches them to the bone. This is your rotator cuff. 

If you overuse your arm, the tendon may wear out and tear over time. You can also sustain a traumatic rotator cuff injury if you fall on your arm or are in a vehicle accident, for example. 

Many rotator cuff injuries can be treated conservatively with physical therapy and injections. If you have a complete tear, surgery is likely warranted. 

Shoulder instability

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The head of the upper arm bone, the humerus, fits into a socket. With overuse, you can overstretch, tear, or detach the shoulder ligaments, shoulder lining, called the capsule, or the labrum, thick tissue that keeps the head of the humerus in place. 

When this happens, you can dislocate your shoulder joint, leaving it partially or completely out of the socket. Baseball, football, and other contact sports increase your risk of shoulder instability. 

Treatment includes rest, ice, and physical therapy, and may involve a sling or shoulder brace. Your doctor advises you if surgery is necessary. 

Shoulder impingement

If your typical activities require a lot of overhead motion, you’re more at risk for shoulder impingement. When you overuse your shoulder, the muscles can become irritated when rubbing against the top of your shoulder blade, causing pain and inflammation.  

Rest, ice, and physical therapy are all standard treatments for shoulder impingement. If your symptoms don’t improve, surgery may be required. 

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder is aptly named; the injury prevents you from moving your shoulder, which can become almost immobile, stiff, and painful.

The injury often occurs in those who haven’t used their shoulder much recently — for example, those recovering from surgery. Certain diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes may make you more susceptible. 

Treatment includes physical therapy and possibly injections. If the condition doesn’t resolve, arthroscopic surgery frees the joint capsule. 

Call or book an appointment online with Delta Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine if you have shoulder pain. 

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