The shoulder is the most moveable and one of the most fragile joints of the body. It is actually several joints combined with tendons and muscles. Its ability to move in a wide range of motion makes it prone to injury.
Because your shoulders are in use during so many everyday activities - such as reaching, lifting, pushing and pulling - even simple movements can cause pain if you've suffered an injury. Most shoulder problems involve the soft tissues: the muscles, ligaments and tendons, most commonly instability, tendonitis and bursitis.
The bones of the shoulder can move out of place or can be forced out of place by an injury. This instability can result in dislocation. Unfortunately, once you've dislocated your shoulder, the chances of it happening again become greater.
When a dislocation occurs, the ligaments and tendons may stretch and can even tear. If repeated dislocations occur, your physician may recommend surgery to correct the problem.
Tendonitis and Bursitis
The tendons connect muscle to bone and other tissue. Excessive wear and tear on the tendons can lead to inflammation, or tendonitis. Tendon damage can result from overuse in sports- or work-related activities and from the normal aging process.
Injury can also cause tendonitis. Rotator cuff injuries are the most common to this category. Severe tendonitis can cause partial or complete tearing of the rotator cuff, resulting in pain, weakness and loss of normal movement.
Excessive use of the shoulder can also lead to bursitis, the inflammation and swelling of the bursa. Bursas are the fluid-filled sacs around the joints that cushion the movement of the shoulder. Bursitis frequently occurs in association with rotator cuff tendonitis.
Medications may be prescribed or injections can be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Surgical correction is also available for cases that do not respond to treatment.
An accurate diagnosis is important, both to relieve pain and preventing further damage. During your evaluation, your doctor will take a medical history and will perform a physical exam. Tests such as X-rays, CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done to get a detailed picture of the shoulder's bones and soft tissues assisting the doctor with diagnosis. Arthroscopic surgery can also be performed to look inside the joint for a diagnosis and to make repairs. For more information about this procedure, select: arthroscopy
Most shoulder problems respond to non-surgical treatment methods, including modification of activities, medications and exercise. However, if your condition requires surgery, your physician will explain the procedure, anesthesia options, risks and possible complications.
You will be monitored in the recovery room after your procedure. Your arm may be in a sling and you may have an ice pack. These, along with pain medication, may help you be more comfortable.
A follow-up visit to your physician will be arranged and you will be given instructions about your home recovery and rehabilitation. Patients can usually return to normal activities in a few weeks.