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Patient Guide to Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain should not be ignored. Early treatment can prevent further injury and chronic shoulder problems. Pain in the shoulder may also be referred from other areas of the body, e.g. disc problems the neck.

The Shoulder Joint

The structure of the shoulder joint allows more range of motion than any other joint in the body.

The shoulder actually has several joints that work together to allow a wide range of motion. Most injuries occur at the “main” shoulder joint, where the head of the upper arm meets the shoulder blade; the term “shoulder joint” refers to this joint. The other smaller shoulder joints are referred to by their specific names.

The head of the upper arm bone sits on a very small and shallow socket in the shoulder blade. This allows for the shoulder’s wide range of motion but makes it susceptible to injury. Because there is little bony stability, the shoulder relies greatly on connective tissue (e.g. ligaments, tendons, muscles) to hold the bones of the joint together and to stabilize the joint.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

The Most Common Cause of shoulder joint pain is rotator cuff tendonitis – injury and inflammation of the tendons (rotator cuff tendons) that envelope the shoulder joint. The most common cause of rotator cuff tendonitis is overuse of the shoulder, though the rotator cuff tendons may be injured suddenly as a result of a fall or accident.

Muscle strain is common in the muscles that run over the shoulders to the neck . It is often the result of holding the shoulders in a raised position for long periods of time. The muscles between the shoulder blades are often strained from slouching from long periods of time. Muscle strain varies in severity.

Other painful shoulder conditions, such as frozen shoulder, may occur for no apparent reason. (The risk of frozen shoulder increases when the shoulder is not used enough after a painful injury). The cause of calcium deposits in the shoulder, which may trigger episodes of acute inflammation of the tendons, is also unclear. Arthritis sometimes occurs in a previously injured shoulder joint.

Slap Lesion

Slap Lesion

Risk Factors

WEAK ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES

Weak or fatigued rotator cuff muscles can lead to soft tissue injury. If the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint (mainly the rotator cuff muscles) are weak or fatigued, the muscles fail to fully stabilize the joint. If the head of the upper arm bone is not kept in place in its socket, abnormal force is placed upon tissue surrounding the shoulder joint and can lead to injury. Shoulder tendonitis and bursitis are common.

OVERUSE

Shoulder pain is frequently caused by chronic overuse of the shoulder. The shoulder may become injured suddenly from a blow or fall, but gradual injury from chronic overuse of the shoulder is more common. Repetitive lifting, pushing, pulling, throwing, and especially overhead activities may lead to injury. Pain may be mild and intermittent in the beginning and worsen over time. Combining repetitive overhead activities with force increases the risk of injury further (e.g. stacking heavy objects on a high shelf).

Repetitive overhead activities can be particularly damaging. When the arm is raised overhead, the head of the upper arm bone migrates upward on the shoulder socket somewhat and rotator cuff tendons come into contact with the roof of the shoulder blade. Repeated contact and friction of the rotator cuff tendons often leads to irritation and inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis).

A strong rotator cuff helps keep the head of the upper arm bone from riding up excessively but some contact between the rotator cuff and bones in the joint still occurs with overhead activity. The bursa that lies under the roof of the shoulder blade may also be affected and become inflamed (bursitis). Shoulder bursitis often occurs along with shoulder tendonitis.

AGING

Aging is a major factor in rotator cuff injuries Tendons lose elasticity with aging and they become more susceptible to injury. Muscle mass also decreases with age. Both the rotator cuff muscles and tendons can be strengthened with resistance exercises.

Prevention of Shoulder Pain

Overuse shoulder injuries often can be prevented.

Weak rotator cuff muscles may be unable to adequately stabilize the shoulder joint. Rotator Cuff Exercises can help. Building up strength of the rotator cuff through exercise helps to stabilize the shoulder joint to prevent abnormal pressure on the soft tissues surrounding the joint. The muscles that control the shoulder blade also play a role in stabilizing the shoulder joint.

Avoid repetitive overhead activities. If you are involved in activities that involve repetitive overhead movements, take frequent breaks. Fatigued rotator cuff muscles lose the ability to keep the shoulder stabilized.

Avoid doing too much too soon. If you are going to engage in any overhead activity you haven’t done for a long time, such as getting back into playing tennis, endurance must be built up slowly. Exercises to strengthen the muscles you will be using in an activity reduce the chance of injury.

Warm up before engaging in sports such as swimming, tennis or throwing sports that require overhead movement.

Proper form for your sport should be learned and practiced to prevent injury.

Maintain proper posture. Muscles over the shoulders become strained from holding the shoulders in a raised position for long periods of time. Muscles in the upper back, between the shoulder blades, become strained as a result of slouching.

Treatment of Shoulder Pain

Prevent major problems by treating minor problems early. If a minor injury is not given a chance to heal before it is subjected to the same activity, pain and inflammation may become chronic.

Treatment of shoulder pain depends on the cause – seek a proper diagnosis from a qualified physician. Most shoulder injuries heal with conservative treatment. Healing takes time. The time it takes to recover depends upon several factors, e.g. the severity of injury, the type of injury, how quickly one heals, how early one begins treatment.

Typical treatment of shoulder pain (for most conditions) involves a combination of rest (not complete rest), exercise, anti-inflammatory medication, applying cold or heat to the shoulder joint and, in some cases, an injection of steroids into the shoulder joint.

Doing activities that aggravate shoulder pain often cause further damage, delay healing, and may lead to long-term problems. However, not using the shoulder at all weakens the shoulder and leaves it more vulnerable to injury. Immobilizing the shoulder may also lead to frozen shoulder. Stretching exercises help prevent this condition.

Strengthening exercises for the muscles that support the shoulder, particularly the rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that dynamically stabilize the main shoulder joint) are a major part of treatment for most shoulder injuries, but strength training before adequate healing has taken place may cause further pain and injury. A physician or physical therapist can determine when the shoulder is ready for strengthening exercises. Shoulder Exercises can prevent injury from recurring.

Massage therapy is also used to treat many soft tissue injuries. From muscle strain to tendonitis to frozen shoulder, massage therapy increases circulation, speeds healing, improves range of motion and relieves pain.

Most shoulder pain improves with conservative treatment; however, surgery may occasionally be required (depending upon the type of and severity of the injury). Surgery may be performed to tighten loose ligaments, repair a torn tendon, remove a calcium deposit, trim a damaged tendon, etc. when conservative treatment doesn’t adequately resolve symptoms.

Diagnosis of Shoulder Pain

Many shoulder conditions have similar symptoms and it may be difficult to diagnose the problem from symptoms alone. A physician, often an orthopedist, diagnoses the cause of shoulder pain by taking into consideration the patient’s symptoms and medical history, findings of a physical examination and sometimes diagnostic testing, such as x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI.


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Patient Guide to Shoulder Pain and Shoulder Injury

Shoulder pain is very common in individuals who play ‘overhead’ sports such as baseball, tennis and volleyball. In this group of athletes injury may be the result of an isolated traumatic event such as a fall or through repeated sporting-use causing micro-trauma to the shoulder region.

The shallow anatomical design of the shoulder joint surface is what makes it inherently unstable and prone to these types of injuries. This lack of bony support increases the dependency on the muscles and other soft tissues for stability. Any alterations in how these tissues function will raise the risk of shoulder injuries.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Two common structural injuries in this group of athletes are the rotator cuff and the labrum.

  • The rotator cuff is a group of muscles which extend from the shoulder blade to the arm. It insures dynamic shoulder stability by maintaining the proper relationship between the arm and the shoulder blade.
  • The shoulder joint is comprised of a ball and socket. The labrum is a fibrous tissue at the edge of the shoulder blade which extends to cover the ball at the top of the arm bone. It functions to increase the shoulder’s stability by deepening the socket
  • Typically, you are more prone to injure the labrum at a younger age. This tearing injury is called a SLAP lesion which is an acronym, (Superior Labrum extending Anterior to Posterior), referring to the location of the injury. It is a fairly common diagnosis for overhead athletes complaining of shoulder pain. Some studies have found it to be present in 83% to 91% of these athletes who require shoulder surgery.
  • Injuries to the rotator cuff are more likely to happen as we get older. Repetitive micro-trauma to these tissues results in inflamed tendons (tendonitis) and tears.

Tightness in the tissues at the back of the shoulder and weakness in the shoulder blade muscles are factors that are known to increase your risk for these injuries. An assessment by a physiotherapist can be beneficial in determining which of these factors are present and designing a program to correct these imbalances before you have pain.

If you have discomfort and pain every time you cock your arm to throw or serve, or have experienced the sudden onset of sharp pain or a loss of strength and power, you may already have an injury. Ignoring these warning signs and continuing to play through the pain can cause damage. If you are experiencing symptoms a physiotherapist can determine whether a program of stretches for the back of the shoulder and exercises to strengthen your shoulder blade muscles will allow you to return to your sport with more power to serve or throw, lowering your chance of re-injury. The earlier you seek therapy the better will be the result.

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Rotator Cuff Injury

Your rotator cuff is made up of the muscles and tendons in your shoulder. These muscles and tendons connect your upper arm bone with your shoulder blade. They also help hold the ball of your upper arm bone firmly in your shoulder socket. The combination results in the greatest range of motion of any joint in your body.

A rotator cuff injury includes any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons. Causes of a rotator cuff injury may include falling, lifting and repetitive arm activities — especially those done overhead, such as throwing a baseball or placing items on overhead shelves.

About half of the time, a rotator cuff injury can heal with self-care measures or exercise therapy.

Symptoms:

Rotator cuff injury signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain and tenderness in your shoulder, especially when reaching overhead, reaching behind your back, lifting, pulling or sleeping on the affected side
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Loss of shoulder range of motion
  • Inclination to keep your shoulder inactive

The most common symptom is pain. You may experience it when you reach up to comb your hair, bend your arm back to put on a jacket or carry something heavy. Lying on the affected shoulder also can be painful. If you have a severe injury, such as a large tear, you may experience continuous pain and muscle weakness.

When to see a doctor
You should see your doctor if:

  • You’re experiencing severe shoulder pain
  • You’re unable to use your arm or feel weak in the arm
  • You have shoulder pain that’s lasted more than a week

Causes:

Four major muscles (subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) and their tendons connect your upper arm bone (humerus) with your shoulder blade (scapula). A rotator cuff injury, which is fairly common, involves any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons, including:

  • Tendinitis. Tendons in your rotator cuff can become inflamed due to overuse or overload, especially if you’re an athlete who performs a lot of overhead activities, such as in tennis or racquetball.
  • Bursitis. The fluid-filled sac (bursa) between your shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons can become irritated and inflamed.
  • Strain or tear. Left untreated, tendinitis can weaken a tendon and lead to chronic tendon degeneration or to a tendon tear. Stress from overuse also can cause a shoulder tendon or muscle to tear.

Common causes of rotator cuff injuries include:

  • Normal wear and tear. Increasingly after age 40, normal wear and tear on your rotator cuff can cause a breakdown of fibrous protein (collagen) in the cuff’s tendons and muscles. This makes them more prone to degeneration and injury. With age, you may also develop calcium deposits within the cuff or arthritic bone spurs that can pinch or irritate your rotator cuff.
  • Poor posture. When you slouch your neck and shoulders forward, the space where the rotator cuff muscles reside can become smaller. This can allow a muscle or tendon to become pinched under your shoulder bones (including your collarbone), especially during overhead activities, such as throwing.
  • Falling. Using your arm to break a fall or falling on your arm can bruise or tear a rotator cuff tendon or muscle.
  • Lifting or pulling. Lifting an object that’s too heavy or doing so improperly — especially overhead — can strain or tear your tendons or muscles. Likewise, pulling something, such as a high-poundage archery bow, may cause an injury.
  • Repetitive stress. Repetitive overhead movement of your arms can stress your rotator cuff muscles and tendons, causing inflammation and eventually tearing. This occurs often in athletes, especially baseball pitchers, swimmers and tennis players. It’s also common among people in the building trades, such as painters and carpenters.

Risk Factors:

The following factors may increase your risk of having a rotator cuff injury:

  • Age. As you get older, your risk of a rotator cuff injury increases. Rotator cuff tears are most common in people older than 40.
  • Being an athlete. Athletes who regularly use repetitive motions, such as baseball pitchers, archers and tennis players, have a greater risk of having a rotator cuff injury.
  • Working in the construction trades. Carpenters and painters, who also use repetitive motions, have an increased risk of injury.
  • Having poor posture. A forward-shoulder posture can cause a muscle or tendon to become irritated and inflamed when you throw or perform overhead activities.
  • Having weak shoulder muscles. This risk factor can be decreased or eliminated with shoulder-strengthening exercises, especially for the less commonly strengthened muscles on the back of the shoulder and around the shoulder blades.

What you can do in the meantime
In the days before your appointment, you can make yourself more comfortable by:

  • Resting your shoulder. Avoid movements that aggravate your shoulder and give you more pain.
  • Applying cold packs to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Taking pain medications, if necessary.

If your injury appears to be severe or your doctor can’t determine the cause of your pain through physical examination, he or she may recommend diagnostic imaging tests to better delineate your shoulder joint, muscles and tendons. These may include:

  • X-rays
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • An ultrasound scan

Treatments:

Most of the time, treatment for rotator cuff injuries involves exercise therapy. Your doctor or a physical therapist will talk with you about specific exercises designed to help heal your injury, improve the flexibility of your rotator cuff and shoulder muscles, and provide balanced shoulder muscle strength. Depending on the severity of your injury, physical therapy may take from several weeks to several months to reach maximum effectiveness.

Other rotator cuff injury treatments may include:

  • Injections. Depending on the severity of your pain, your doctor may use a corticosteroid injection to relieve inflammation and pain.
  • Surgery. If you have a large tear in your rotator cuff, you may need surgery to repair the tear. Sometimes during this kind of surgery doctors may remove a bone spur or calcium deposits. The surgery may be performed as an open repair through a 2 1/2- to 4-inch (6- to 10-centimeter) incision, as a mini-open repair through a 1 1/4- to 2-inch (3- to 5-centimeter) incision, or as an arthroscopic repair with the aid of a small camera inserted through a smaller incision.
  • Arthroplasty. Some long-standing rotator cuff tears over time may contribute to the development of rotator cuff arthropathy, which can include severe arthritis. In such cases, your doctor may discuss with you more extensive surgical options, including partial shoulder replacement (hemiarthroplasty) or total shoulder replacement (prosthetic arthroplasty).

A unique treatment option now available involves the use of a reverse ball-and-socket prosthesis. This reverse shoulder prosthesis is most appropriate for people who have very difficult shoulder problems. These include having arthritis in the joint, along with extensive tears of multiple muscles and tendons (rotator cuff) that support the shoulder, or having extensive rotator cuff tears and a failed previous shoulder joint replacement.

Rotator Cuff Injury? Stop the Pain today. Call +65 6471 2744 for Appointment or Email to milda@bone.com.sg

Shoulder AC Joint Injury

What is the Acromioclavicular Joint?

The AC joint is short for the acromioclavicular joint. Separation of the two bones forming this joint is caused by damage to the ligaments connecting them. It is sometimes also referred to as a shoulder separation injury.

The acromioclavicular joint is formed by the outer end of the clavicle (collar bone) and the acromion process of the scapular (shoulder blade). The acromion is a bony process which protrudes forwards from the upper part of the scapular. This joint forms the highest part of the shoulder.

The two bones are attached by the acromioclavicular (AC) ligament. There are several other ligaments which can be of importance in AC joint injuries, including the coracoclavicular (CC) ligament (divided into conoid and trapezoid sections) which joins the clavicle to the coracoid process, another forward protruding part of the scapula, slightly below and to the inside of the acromion.

A third ligament is the coracoacromial ligament which attaches the acromion process to the coracoid process, although it is rarely involved in this type of injury.The most common way of injuring the AC joint is by landing on the shoulder, elbow, or onto an outstretched hand.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain at the end of the collar bone
  • Pain may feel widespread throughout the shoulder until the initial pain resolves, following this it is more likely to be a very specific site of pain over the joint itself
  • Swelling often occurs
  • Depending on the extent of the injury a step-deformity may be visible. This is an obvious lump where the joint has been disrupted and is visible on more severe injuries
  • Pain on moving the shoulder, especially when trying to raise the arms above shoulder height

AC joint injuries are graded from 1-6 using the Rockwood scale which classifies injuries in relation to the extent of ligament damage and the space between the acromion and clavicle, as shown in the pictures opposite.

Grade 1 is a simple sprain to the AC joint, grade 2 involves rupture of the AC ligament and grade 3 rupture of both AC and CC ligaments which often results in a superior displacement. From this point onwards the scale and grade of injury depends on the degree of displacement of the clavicle.

Grade 4 involves posterior displacement and grade 5 superior displacement, to a greater degree than grade 3, with an increase in coracoclavicular space by 3-5 times the norm. A step deformity may be apparent with grade 3, 4 & 5 injuries. Grade 6 (not shown) involves full rupture of both AC and CC ligaments with the clavicle being displaced inferiorly.

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