Although the shoulder boasts the largest range of motion of any joint in the human body, its remarkable flexibility can make it most vulnerable to damage caused by over-use, over-reach, and repetitive motions.
shoulder injuries: common types and reasons
Among the most common injuries to the shoulder are the following:
The top of the upper arm, or humerus, is connected to the shoulder with a ball joint. This joint may pop out of place if hit, pushed, pulled, or twisted too hard. The dislocated bone may damage the connected tendons and leave the shoulder vulnerable to future dislocation. A partial dislocation is called a subluxation.
This injury is defined as the tearing of the ligaments that connect the shoulder blade and the clavicle, or collarbone. It's most often caused by falling onto an outstretched hand or by a hard impact.
Of the three bones making up the shoulder, the clavicle, or collarbone, is the most-often broken bone in a shoulder injury. Just like a shoulder separation, it can be caused if you fall and put out your arm to break your fall.
Rotator Cuff injury
Despite its name, the rotator cuff is not a distinct organ. It is the collective name given to a group of shoulder tendons and muscles, all of which connect the upper arm to the shoulder blade. Repetitive motions, overuse, and daily use (wear and tear) all can cause tears, inflammation, and pressure (impingements) here.
Shoulders are also vulnerable to inflammation, which can be caused by injury or autoimmune disorders like some forms of arthritis.
The human body is protected from infection by white blood cells (phagocytes), which engulf and destroy invasive bacteria and viruses. Phagocytes also cause your body to increase blood flow to the affected area and to release fluids, which is what can cause swelling, irritation, and pain.
Among the most common causes of shoulder inflammation are:
- Osteoarthritis, caused by long-term use, or “wear and tear” of shoulder cartilage
- Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, which is when the body mistakenly sends white blood cells to an irritated or damaged body part
- Tendonitis, caused by the repetitive internal pinching, pulling and pushing of the shoulder tendons, or rotator cuff
- Bursitis, affecting the bursa — a fluid-filled cushion for the rotator cuff. The bursa sac itself can become irritated and inflamed through repetitive motion.
common causes of shoulder injury
Shoulder injuries are among the most common orthopedic problems; in fact, an estimated 7+ million people per year visit doctors complaining of shoulder pain or limited range of motion. Some of the most common contributors to shoulder injury include:
Repeated motions of the arm, especially throwing motions and overhead swings, often lead to shoulder problems for athletes. Activities which can lead to injury include:
- Baseball (pitching, throwing). Pitchers in particular are prone to throwing injuries like SLAP tears, bicep tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, rotation dysfunction, and dislocations.
- Swimming. Many swimmers complain of shoulder pain, particularly rotator cuff issues.
- Tennis. Serves in particular can lead to repetitive strain.
- Track and field events. Throwing events like shotput, javelin, and discus all involve heavy use of the shoulder.
- Volleyball. As with tennis, the overhead motion of serving or spiking can subject shoulders to repetitive, high stress.
- Weight lifting. Improper form, lifting a too-heavy weight, or overtraining at the bench press can all cause pain or injury.
Rigorous workouts like Crossfit and even certain yoga poses can also exert forces on the shoulder which may lead to injury.
Accidents or Falls
Getting in an accident may twist your shoulder out of place or deliver a serious impact force that can damage soft tissue or bone. Tripping and falling onto your outstretched hand can also do significant damage.
If you've experienced a sudden blow or fall, you may notice pain, swelling, bruising, or numbness immediately after, or shortly after, the incident.
Acute shoulder injuries can include:
- Contusions (bruises)
- Nerve injury
- Rotator cuff tear
- Shoulder separation
- Sprain of the tendons or ligaments
If you suspect any of these injuries, it's important to see a doctor as quickly as you can. Left untreated, some injuries can contribute to the development of more chronic issues like osteoarthritis.
Other Activities & Causes
As we age, our tissue can weaken and may not repair itself as quickly as it did when we were younger. Everyday movements requiring frequent use of the shoulder can sometimes lead to overuse injuries and strain. It's possible to hurt your shoulder, for example, doing any of the following:
- Carpentry (sawing, planing, sanding)
- Gardening or yard work
- House cleaning
- Painting walls
- Putting an object on a high shelf, or taking something down
- Replacing ceiling light bulbs
Postural issues, calcium buildups, and illnesses like cancer can also cause shoulder pain. If you're experiencing problems, seeing a doctor for a diagnosis is the first step in figuring out a plan to improve your symptoms.
To learn more about shoulder injuries and your treatment options, give Coastal Orthopedics located in Corpus Christi, TX a call. Telephone: 361.994.1166.