Do you have shoulder pain and wonder if what you are feeling is normal? We have formed a list of some of the most typical shoulder problems we have seen. The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. It’s found between the trunk and the arm and allows for a great range of movement. Because of this, shoulder problems are unfortunately common.
In humans, the shoulder is made up of a large, flat bone called the scapula and a slender bone called the clavicle. The upper arm bone or humerus has a ball at the top that fits into a socket in the scapula. The resulting joint allows for the shoulder’s exceptional mobility. There are seventeen muscles that help the joint move, along with ligaments and tendons.
The causes of shoulder pain and shoulder problems are as varied as its movements. They can be caused by falls, diseases or playing a sport or exercising incorrectly. Some people are born with skeletal abnormalities that make them more vulnerable to shoulder pain. Among the conditions that lead to shoulder pain are:
This is an inflammation of the bursa, tiny, fluid-filled sacs that lubricate the space between the shoulder’s muscles and bones. We suspect shoulder bursitis when the person finds raising their arm or putting any weight on their shoulder painful. The arm may also be weakened and the outside of the arm swollen.
Shoulder tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder. Tendons attach the muscles to bones. A person with a less severe type of tendinitis might even hear cracking or popping when they try to move the shoulder.
Tendon tears are also called a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is the muscles and tendons that wrap around the humerus. A person who has a rotator cuff injury might actually feel the tenons tearing in their shoulder. This is followed by severe pain and weakness in the shoulder.
Impingement is often a complication of damage to the muscles that make up the rotator cuff. With impingement, the head of the humerus moves up into the shoulder joint. This causes tendons to be trapped or impinged. Symptoms of this are: pain, especially when the person tries to raise their arm, pain when they try to reach behind them and a sensation of grinding when they try to move the affected shoulder.
Shoulder instability happens when the humerus is dislocated or subluxated from the shoulder. In the first case, the humerus bone slips out of the socket completely. In the second case, it is only partially pulled free. With this condition, the person feels great pain their shoulder, and their arm is numb and immobile.
In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints between two bones starts to break down. Because of this, the bare bones start to rub together. As with other arthritic joints, the shoulder’s movements become limited and the person may hear cracking noises when they try to move it.
It takes an immense amount of force to fracture a person’s scapula, but fracturing the collarbone is relatively easy. If either of the bones is fractured, the patient feels immediate pain and sees swelling and bruising in their shoulder. Lifting the arm will be impossible, and there may be numbness and tingling in the hand.
Doctors have a variety of ways to examine a person who has shoulder problems. We can do a simple physical examination and test the person’s range of movement. The doctor also gives the patient imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs.
Treatment depends on the problem. The patient’s arm will be put in a sling if there is a fracture. If the shoulder is dislocated, the patient is placed under anesthesia, and it will be put back in place. Bursitis and tendonitis can be treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and pain relievers are prescribed for arthritis. In severe cases, surgery may be the only way to correct a shoulder problem.