Wellness Wednesday: 5 Common Injuries to the Shoulder Joint


Loudoun County, Va. — Due to the nature of the joint, the shoulder is a very common joint to injure. The shoulder joint is a very shallow joint which has mostly muscles and ligaments holding it in place in addition to a thick and stiff piece of cartilage called the labrum, which helps to vacuum seal the two bones of the shoulder in place. Since the joint has a lot of movement this can be a factor in causing injuries. Many shoulder injuries are caused by overuse and sometimes by a traumatic injury.

5 Common Injuries to the Shoulder Joint

1. Rotator cuff tendinitis

  1. This is a very common injury that happens after overuse of the arm or general weakness of the muscles around the shoulder.
  2. Symptoms include tenderness/soreness of the front or back of the shoulder, and sometimes dull pain down the arm.
  3. It often is helped by rest and physical therapy if it persists past 2 weeks without improvement.

2. Rotator cuff tear

  1. A rotator cuff tear typically happens after years of shoulder pain, likely years of tendinitis.
  2. Symptoms include weakness of the shoulder and a decrease in range of motion which is sometimes not limited by pain if the tear is a full tear. Pain often is there when the tear is only partial and can be sharp, dull or achy.
  3. Often, a rotator cuff tear does not need surgery unless you are an athlete or the tear is very severe and you are still very active. Coordination with PT and an orthopedic doctor can help you determine the best course of action.

3. Bursitis

  1. This is a term relating directly to inflammation of the bursa. A bursa is a small fluid filled sac that when it is normal, should not be noticeable. In some cases a bursa can become very inflamed and create lots of fluid and the sac becomes larger.
  2. Symptoms of bursitis are similar to tendinitis: dull, sometimes sharp pain in the shoulder area.
  3. PT can help address the reasons why the bursa may be getting inflamed. If pain is very severe checking with an orthopedic MD for pain management options is helpful as well. It does not require surgery.

4. Labral Tear

  1. A labral tear is common in athletes who throw overhead or in traumatic injuries such as a fall on the shoulder.
  2. Symptoms of a labral tear can be feelings of an unstable shoulder, pain deep in the joint, and locking/popping of the shoulder with movement.
  3. Depending on your symptoms and the severity, the symptoms of a labral tear can be decreased or eradicated by PT. Sometimes it does require surgery and again, discussing options with an orthopedic MD can be helpful as well as pre-physical therapy.

5. Shoulder Dislocation

  1. Shoulder dislocations are relatively common in traumatic conditions. It can happen sometimes spontaneously without severe trauma, but in rare cases such as if the person is extremely flexible or has a condition such as Ehlers Danlos.
  2. Symptoms of a dislocation can be feelings of instability in the shoulder, noticeable pain and abnormal shoulder position following an accident, or an extreme movement (ie. Throwing position).
  3. A shoulder dislocation should be treated ASAP. An emergency room visit or urgent care visit is very important within hours of the dislocation. PT is important after a dislocation to improve stability around the shoulder and make sure you get full movement back without risking another injury.

Note from our sponsor: Physical therapy  is a very valuable and important part of addressing these common injuries of the shoulder. Please reach out to us before the condition worsens so we can help you get better faster!


About Author

Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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