The shoulder is one of the most common problem areas on the human body. It is a complex anatomical mechanism with muscles, bones and ligaments all working together in unison. Shoulder injuries are most commonly caused by overuse or acute injury.
The anatomical structure of the shoulder consists of a ball, socket, and three main bones: the humerus, clavicle and scapula. These are known as the upper arm, collarbone and shoulder blade respectively.
The shoulder has the largest range of motion of any joint in the entire body. The range of mobility is a double edged sword because it provides great range of motion to the arms, but is susceptible to minor and major injuries. The stability of the shoulder comes primarily from the rotator cuff muscles and the cartilage around the shoulder. While impressive, the shoulder’s range of motion is tenuous because of the injury potential.
The symptoms of a shoulder injury are what you would expect; swelling, pain, stiffness, lack of mobility, tingly sensations, and weakness. Lesser known symptoms of an injury include coldness, paleness, and the area turning a shade of blue. If you experience any of the above symptoms it is important to see a health care provider right away. If neglected, shoulder injuries can have lifelong consequences.
Common Causes of Shoulder Pain and Injury
An acute injury arises from sudden trauma to the shoulder causing damage. An acute injury typically occurs after a fall or a direct blow. Sports activities, accidents around the home, or motor vehicle accidents are common causes of acute shoulder injuries. Falling onto your outstretched hand while falling is a very common cause of injuries such as fractures and rotator cuff tears.
Acute shoulder injuries can damage muscles, bones, and ligaments. For example, a person taking a direct blow to the shoulder could experience a broken collar bone, damage to one of the four shoulder tendons, or a contusion to the muscle. This is why getting a proper diagnosis to a shoulder injury is critical, to prevent long term consequences.
Wear and Tear Injuries
Aside from acute injuries, another common cause of pain and injury to the shoulder comes from overuse. Overuse injuries can cause symptoms to gradually occur over time or they may seemingly come from out of nowhere with severity. Overuse injuries are caused when the shoulder is under duress for extended periods of time. Athletes such as pitchers, swimmer, and tennis players often experience shoulder injuries from overuse. Individuals who lift with their shoulders are also prone to overuse wear and tear leading to injury.
The most common problem is termed impingement syndrome and includes inflammation of the protective covering termed the bursa. The problem is aching and painful and responds best to conservative measures such as injections and medication and physical therapy.
Common injuries caused by overuse of the shoulder include bursitis, shoulder tendinitis, and muscle strain. Just like acute injuries, overuse injuries can affect one or all components of the shoulder.