Problems with Your Miracle Workers — the Shoulders

Joint Pain & Replacement Midland, TXThe shoulder is an amazing feat of engineering that allows a wide degree of motion in your arm — everything from serving an ace on the tennis court to placing a contact lens on your eyeball to throwing a Frisbee. The shoulder consists of several joints and an assortment of tendons and muscles.

But the shoulder is prone to injury, partially because it is so complex and partially because we overload it. The shoulder can be a source of pain and weakness, both from acute injury and also from the simple effects of wear and tear. From tearing the rotator cuff (Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Tommy John made that injury famous) to separating the shoulder to AC joint pain, myriad issues can develop with the shoulder

At Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, we see a lot of shoulder problems, and we’re experts at diagnosing and treating your shoulder problems. Surgery is usually the last resort, only after all other avenues have been explored.

Here are some of the most common causes of your shoulder pain.

Shoulder anatomy 101

First, a little anatomy to help you understand the shoulder. Your shoulder consists of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The head of the humerus fits into a socket in the shoulder blade. A combination of muscles and tendons, known as the rotator cuff, keeps the humerus centered in the socket. They attach the humerus to the shoulder blade.

Causes of your shoulder pain

Your shoulder pain usually comes from one of four areas: instability, tendon issues, fracture, or arthritis. Here’s a more detailed breakdown.

  • Instability — This is where people experience excruciating pain in the shoulder. Dislocations, separations. Few things can be as painful. They happen when the humerus is forced out of the shoulder socket. This usually happens in a sudden injury. Troy Aikman’s career turned quickly toward retirement when he was sacked from the side and landed fully on his right shoulder. But it also has a chronic component where a shoulder joint has become loosened over time allowing more movement of the humerus. Once the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the shoulder become separated, future separations or dislocations are more likely.
  • Tendonitis — In case you weren’t paying much attention in your high school science class, a tendon is a cord that connects muscle to bone. Tendonitis is simply an inflamed tendon. It can occur from excessive use, such as hitting a tennis ball and causing vibrations to course down your arm, hitting a golf ball off a synthetic mat day after day, or from having to work above your head with your arms for long periods. Or it can simply be degenerative from wear and tear over the decades.
  • Tendon tears — A tendon tear is the basis of one of the most common shoulder ailments that you hear about when watching an Astros game — a torn rotator cuff. While the excessive throwing mentioned above can lead to tendonitis if the movement is sharp enough it can also tear the tendon. If this happens, the tendon is pulled away from its attachment to the bone. Other tears can be partial. If you tear a tendon in your shoulder, your usage will be severely restricted.
  • Fractures — The most commonly broken bone in the shoulder is the collarbone (clavicle), but the humerus and shoulder blade can also be broken.
  • Bursitis — Some people will say they have bursitis as a catchall pain when it can be tendonitis or even a tear. The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that can be found in the joints throughout the body, including the shoulder. They act like little pillows between the bones and the soft tissues moving around them. They reduce friction. If you overuse your shoulder, especially in repetitive movements, your bursae sacs in the area can become inflamed — bursitis. This can make the simplest movement with your arm painful.
  • Arthritis — Like all of your joints, your shoulder pain can come from arthritis. In the shoulder, the most common form is known as osteoarthritis. This develops over time from simple wear and tear. Symptoms of osteoarthritis in the shoulder are swelling, pain, and stiffness, and they grow more painful with time. Also, if you’ve dislocated your shoulder or had issues with your rotator cuff, you can develop another form of arthritis that involves the joint lining.

If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, whether acute or chronic, there’s cause. Finding it is our job at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists. We’re shoulder experts and make it our mission to get you past the pain and back to normal usage. Call us at 432-520-3020 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Shoulder Pain

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