Shoulder Pain, Injury and Treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports shoulder pain afflicts nearly 1 in 10 people. Shoulders have a range of motion greater than any other human joint. It is no wonder they are frequently injured!

Shoulder Injuries: As a personal injury attorney, I represent clients who have suffered serious shoulder injuries and broken bones as the result of being in an accident. Injury to the shoulder may occur when a bicyclist is hit by a car in a crosswalk, in a grocery store fall when someone slips and falls on a spill on the floor or falls in a pothole or other tripping hazard as well as in pedestrian/car collisions.

Shoulder Anatomy: Shoulders are the most commonly dislocated joint. The shoulder is not put together as snugly as our body’s other ball and socket joints. Shoulder sockets are shallower, flatter, and the balls (the upper end of the top arm bones) have to be held in position by a lot of soft tissue.

Shoulder Problems: Aside from wear and tear,shoulders are susceptible to many other injuries.Problems more often occur in the ligaments and tendons of the shoulder rather than in the bones. Doctors may diagnose the precise location of shoulder pain by performing an examination, or through x-rays or an MRI.

Types of Shoulder Injuries: Dislocation: When the ball-shape top of the upper arm (humerus) becomes pulled out of its socket (glenoid) the surrounding soft tissue is stretched and often torn, causing a lot of swelling and pain in the shoulder. As a result, the supporting ligaments in the front of the shoulder may become damaged. Dislocation of the shoulder can cause excruciating pain. A doctor can usually maneuver the arm back into place, although sometimes shoulder surgery is indicated.

A dislocated shoulder injury is frequently the result of a slip and fall accident or pedestrian or bicycle accident.The nature of the injury makes it more vulnerable to future dislocation. When this occurs in an older adult, the damage may be more severe, due to soft tissue becoming weaker with age.

Treatment for a Dislocated Shoulder: Treatment generally includes rest, cold packs, pain medicine, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy. Separation: A separated shoulder happens not in the ball-and-socket joint but closer to the neck, at the point where the top of the shoulder blade (scapula) meets the collarbone called the clavicle. The ligaments holding the two bones together are stretched or torn.

Treatment for Separated Shoulder: Treatment for a separated shoulder joint injury usually involves rest, ice, pain relievers, and physical therapy.

Rotator Cuff Injury: The rotator cuff is the structure that holds the ball of the shoulder in its socket and comprises four muscles and several tendons that are attached to the ball, beneath the deltoid and pectoralis muscles. A rotator cuff injury can progress from inflammation to partial tears, small tears, and larger tears. One of the tendons in an injured rotator cuff may begin to detach from the arm bone. Symptoms include pain in the shoulder and upper arm which becomes worse with time and when the arm is lifted overhead or lowered.

Treatment for rotator cuff tears: If caught early, they may be treated with rest, ice and an anti-inflammatory, and physical therapy. Ultrasound, along with a steroid cream, can reduce inflammation and increase blood flow, which speeds up healing. Tendons may be reattached using arthroscopic surgery, in more serious shoulder rotator cuff tears.

Frozen Shoulder: Some people, who have an injured shoulder requiring immobilization as part of their treatment plan, suffer what is called, frozen shoulder. This is caused when the shoulder is immobile and scar tissue forms locking the shoulder joint into place.

Treatment for Frozen Shoulder: Frozen shoulder can be quite painful and is sometimes treated with an anti-inflammatory, heat and stretching. More serious cases require the injection of steroids into the shoulder joint or electrical stimulation. When frozen shoulder does not respond to conservative care, doctors perform a forced manipulation under anesthesia to actually free the joint from the scar tissue.