What Are The Most Common Shoulder Injuries?

common shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries are very common and are frequently caused by athletic activities that involve excessive, repetitive, overhead motion. Injuries can also occur during everyday activities, such as gardening, painting, and hanging curtains. 

Most problems that arise in the shoulder involve muscles, ligaments, and tendons, rather than the bones. Athletes are especially vulnerable to common shoulder injuries that can develop through repetitive, intensive training routines.

Orthopedic surgeons group common shoulder problems into the following categories:

  • Instability. When your shoulder joint moves or is forced out of its normal position, this condition is called instability. If you’re suffering from instability, you’ll experience pain when raising your arm, which can also feel like your shoulder’s slipping out of joint. 
  • Impingement. Impingement is caused by excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscles against the top of the shoulder blade, which is called the acromion. Impingement problems can happen during activities that require excessive overhead arm motion. If you’re feeling pain, see your doctor about dealing with the inflammation, which, if left untreated, could lead to further injury. 

Shoulder injuries are very common and can occur throughout various stages of life.  Shoulder injuries can occur during athletic activities, and also during work or regular activities at home. We specialize in both common and complex shoulder injuries at Baptist Health Medical Group Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.  Call us for questions or to schedule an appointment.

Brent J. Morris, MD Orthopedic Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon at Baptist Health Medical Group Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Common Shoulder Tears

A shoulder tear is an injury to the soft tissues that give the joint range of motion and stability. A tear can occur in the tendons, muscles, or labrum, which is a rim of fibrous tissue that lines the glenoid. Two of the most common shoulder tears involve the rotator cuff and glenoid labrum. 

Shoulder tears can be caused by repeated use or by a sudden injury. Years of repetitive motion from sports or other activities like chores or job requirements can lead to a tear. A dislocated shoulder occurs when the humerus becomes dislodged from the glenoid, which can cause the muscles and tendons to pull and tear. Symptoms include pain, a decreased range of motion, and instability. Two of the most common shoulder tears are:

  • Rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles of the upper arm. These muscles allow you to raise and rotate your arm. If the tendons tear, the humerus can’t move as easily in the socket. Rotator cuff tendons can be injured by trying to lift a heavy object with your arms extended, or by trying to catch a falling object. 
    • Symptoms: These include a crackling sensation when moving the shoulder, intense pain, and a snapping sensation if the tear is sudden. You may also feel weakness or not be able to lift your arm at all. You may also feel pain when pressure is put on that shoulder. 
    • Treatment: Your treatment will depend on the severity of your injury. If the tear isn’t complete, your doctor may recommend rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Your provider may also prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for pain.
  • Glenoid labrum tear. The glenoid labrum is fibrocartilaginous tissue within the glenoid cavity of the shoulder joint. The purpose of the glenoid labrum is to absorb shock and provide stability within the joint. A tear in the labrum can be the result of trauma or repetitive shoulder motion. A common type of glenoid labrum tear is a SLAP tear or superior labral tear from anterior to posterior (SLAP).
    • Symptoms: Pain with overhead movement, catching, locking, popping, or grinding sensation, shoulder stiffness, shoulder instability, decreased range of motion. 
    • Treatment: The main treatments for a glenoid labrum tear is:
      • Restricted rest. You should expect to ice the shoulder and rest for several weeks to your shoulder time to recover and regain strength. Your doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications and, in some cases, a cortisone injection for pain management. 
      • Physical therapy. This will include gentile, passive, range-of-motion exercises for your shoulder done with a physical therapist. 
      • Surgery. If physical therapy isn’t working and you still can’t complete overhead motions, or your shoulder continues to dislocate, your doctor may recommend surgery. This treatment will reattach the torn labrum to the bone.

Common Types of Shoulder Dislocations

The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is the rounded top of the humerus bone in the upper arm, which fits into the socket – the pear-shaped outer part of the shoulder blade. A shoulder dislocation happens when the top of the humerus moves out of its usual location in the shoulder joint. Doctors classify shoulder dislocations into three types, depending on the direction of the dislocation:

  • Anterior dislocation. This is the most common type of shoulder dislocation accounting for more than 95% of all cases. It happens when the top of the humerus is displaced forward, toward the front of your body. For younger people, the cause is usually sports-related. For older people, it’s usually due to a fall on an outstretched arm.
  • Posterior dislocation. Posterior dislocations account for 2-4% of all shoulder dislocations and are most likely to be related to seizures and electric shock. The top of the humerus is displaced toward the back of the body.
  • Inferior dislocation. In this rare type of dislocation, the top of the humerus is displaced downward. It can be caused by various types of trauma in which the arm is pushed violently downward.

Treatment for dislocation begins with getting your bone back into its socket. Your doctor may give you medication for pain and to relax your shoulder muscles. Once your joint is back into its normal position, you’ll rest your arm in a sling for one to four weeks. You’ll also begin a physical therapy program to help restore normal strength and range-of-motion in your shoulder joint. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan is often needed to further evaluate the shoulder after a dislocation. If you continue to have severe pain, or if your shoulder is still loose and unstable after physical therapy, your doctor may recommend surgery.

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Other Common Shoulder Injuries

In addition to shoulder tears and dislocations, there are other common shoulder injuries that can occur, including:

  • Bursitis. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that cushions your joints. It can get swollen and irritated when you repeat the same motions over and over, which can cause pain when you move your shoulder.
  • Fracture. If you fall or take a hard hit, a bone can break or crack. The most common breaks around the shoulder are to the collarbone (clavicle) and humerus (arm bone).
  • Osteoarthritis. A degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that can affect any joint, including your shoulder. As the cartilage between bones breaks down, they rub together, causing pain. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a disease that causes your body’s immune system to attack the lining in your joints, which can cause pain and stiffness in your shoulders. 
  • Frozen shoulder. This condition limits how much your joint will move. Abnormal bands of tissue build up in the joint and keep your shoulder from moving freely. If pain or surgery have made you use your shoulder less, adhesions can build up.

Learn More About Common Shoulder Injuries from Baptist Health

If you’re interested in learning more about common shoulder injuries and treatment options, contact the Baptist Health Orthopedic team

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