The 5 Most Common Shoulder Injuries & Their Treatment

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Shoulder injuries can either be chronic or acute, depending on how long you’ve been in pain. An acute injury is one that occurs suddenly, usually as the result of a direct impact, twisting the shoulder joint, or overusing a muscle, ligament or tendon.

The five most common shoulder injuries are:

Dislocated Shoulder

The shoulder joints are the most commonly dislocated joints in the body, and almost a quarter of all dislocated shoulders are also accompanied by associated fractures. A dislocated shoulder is a painful and traumatic injury, frequently occurring in young people as a result of playing a contact sport. In older people, the injury is often caused by trauma and is associated with rotator cuff tears. Initial treatment usually comprises a closed reduction, without the need for surgery, followed by immobilisation in a sling. Recurrent dislocations might result in a recommendation for surgery to repair the damaged structures. If healing and rehabilitation are problem free,

Initial treatment usually comprises a closed reduction, without the need for surgery, followed by immobilisation in a sling. Recurrent dislocations might result in a recommendation for surgery to repair the damaged structures. If healing and rehabilitation are problem free, normal function should be regained within three to four months.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is actually a group of four muscles that combine as tendons to form a cuff over the head of the upper arm bone (humerus). It gets its name from its function – to rotate the arm at the shoulder and provide a supportive cuff around the joint. A rotator cuff tear is a tear to any one of the four muscles that form the cuff, often occurring from repetitive throwing (cricket, baseball etc.) or from racquet sports.

Many rotator cuff tears can be successfully treated without surgery, using a combination of steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. However, if the pain in your shoulder persists, surgery may be needed – especially if you use your arms for overhead work, or if you play a lot of sport.

Glenoid Labrum Tear

The glenoid labrum is a ring of fibrous tissue attached to the glenoid, where the ball of your humerus sits. Tears to this ring of tissue often occur from repeated overhead throwing, lifting or catching heavy objects below shoulder height, or falling onto an outstretched arm. These types of tears are sometimes difficult to diagnose as pain is hard to pinpoint to a specific location.

Glenoid Labrum injuries are classed as either superior – towards the top of the socket – or inferior – towards the bottom. Unless the injury is unstable, it usually won’t require surgery but is treated with a combination of rest, cold therapy (such as ice), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and rehabilitation.

AC Joint Separation

This in an injury to the ligament that holds the acromioclavicular joint at the top of the shoulder together. It involves the separation of the collar bone (clavicle) from the shoulder blade (scapula) and is commonly caused either by falling directly onto the area or by receiving a direct blow during sport. Rugby players, and cyclists who go over their handlebars, often injure themselves this way.

The initial treatment of AC joint injuries is dictated by the grade of injury, with lower grade injuries being treated non-operatively, with higher grade injuries often requiring a surgical intervention

Frozen Shoulder

The medical term for this injury is adhesive capsulitis. It’s a condition causing pain and restricted movement in the shoulder joint, and is most commonly caused by incorrect, or infrequent use of the joint because of another injury or illness, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or stroke. The condition causes the tissues around the joint to stiffen, and scar tissue forms. This makes movement painful and more difficult. Any shoulder problem can lead to frozen shoulder if you don’t make an effort to keep your full range of motion.

Treatment usually consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, gentle stretching and ice. Corticosteroid injections may be used to help reduce the swelling and pain. Even with all these treatments, and regular physical therapy, it can take at least two years for a full recovery, in some cases, surgery may also be beneficial to hasten recovery.

At Health in Motion, we specialise in sports injuries and trauma orthopaedics, especially in the upper extremities. We have three areas of operation, conveniently located in Mount Edgecombe, Ballito and Umhlanga. Call us today to make an appointment.

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