Your shoulders are complex joints that are composed of three main bones: the scapula, clavicle and humerus. These bones can combine in more than 16,000 different formations. While chronic pain in most parts of your body will make your normal daily routine a challenge, shoulder injuries in particular can make even the simplest tasks difficult, from showering and dressing to even eating. The causes of shoulder pain can range from serious sporting injuries to normal wear and tear.
We have complied a brief guide for everything that you need to know about shoulder injuries, including common causes, conditions, prevention and physical therapy.
While your first instinct when you think of shoulder pain is to imagine it is the result of a single accident, this is not always the cause. Shoulder pain is often the result of overuse, normal wear and tear or just part of the natural aging process.
That said, accidents remain the most common cause of shoulder injuries. Some common examples include:
• Falling onto your arm when it is outstretched.
• Direct blows to your shoulder.
• Abnormal twisting or bending of your shoulder.
Shoulder pain is also caused by one or more of these common conditions.
• Arthritis: This is caused by regular wear and tear, and is also known as osteoarthritis. It is the commonest form of arthritis located in the shoulder. The symptoms will usually start around middle age, and will include swelling, stiffness and pain.
• Bursitis: Inflammation and swelling of your bursa between your rotator cuff and shoulder blade. Your bursa is a small sac filled with fluid that is located in your shoulder joints, which helps to reduce the friction between bone and muscle.
• Fracture: Bone breaks in your shoulders can occur in the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula).
• Impingement: Happens when your arm is lifted away from your body and the top of your shoulder blade puts pressure on, or “impinges”, your underlying soft tissue (bursa and tendons).
• Dislocation/Instability: Happens when your humerus’s head is forced out of your shoulder’s socket. This can be either a complete or partial dislocation.
• Tendinitis: Inflammation of tendons in your shoulder. It can be either chronic (degenerative) or acute (overuse).
• Tendon Tears: Happens when your tendons tear and split. In the case of a complete tear, most often your tendon will be pulled away from the bone. A rotator cuff tendon injury is the commonest form of tendon tear seen in shoulders.
While an injury is not always avoidable, you can always work on prevention. Here are a few tips for preventing shoulder injuries.
• Good Posture: A good posture will have a direct effect on how your shoulder functions. Start by sitting in a slouched position, then raise your arms over your head. While you keep your arms up there, start to sit up straight, then observe how much higher you can raise your arms when you have a correct posture.
• Maintain Your Balance: If you exercise your chest muscles, do not forgot to exercise your middle back muscles as well. Add a few rows to your exercise routine.
• The Importance of Body Mechanics: Do not rely on the smaller upper body muscles for doing the most work. Rely on the larger leg muscles to support movement and lifting.
• Work Your Small Muscles: Your rotator cuff is the shoulder’s main stabilizer, and it is too often neglected. Keep your smaller muscles strong to help maintain your shoulder’s stability.
If you have shoulder pain that will not go away, then physical therapy is a great way to get your full functionality back.
Physical therapy for your shoulder can include:
• Strengthening of the Intrinsic Rotator Cuff: Maintaining a stable and a strong rotator cuff is a large part of physical therapy for your shoulder, as it helps to keep the ball in its socket of your shoulder joint.
• Scapular Re-Training and Stabilization: Your muscles that provide support for your shoulder blade help with the shoulder joint’s movement and is usually a major element in the normalization of your shoulder mechanics. These are often the most difficult muscles to retrain, so do not get frustrated at the amount of work that it takes.
• Posture: Shoulder rehabilitation and posture training go hand in hand. You need to position your shoulders well using a good posture to get the most from your recovery. We will employ a variety of different methods, such as joint stretching or mobilization, tape and machines to aid you in increasing your awareness of your posture, on top of basic exercises.