The shoulders are the most mobile joints in the human body. Since the ball of the upper arm is anatomically larger than the shoulder socket that holds it, the shoulders are supported by muscles, tendons, and ligaments to ensure they remain in a stable or normal position. Because the shoulder can be unstable, it is often a site for many common issues to develop. Below are 5 common causes of shoulder pain and their associated symptoms.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator cuff tears within the shoulder are a very common type of shoulder injury. The rotator cuff is made up of a group of four muscles: the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the subscapularis, and the teres minor. Every single one of these muscles is attached to the bones of the shoulder by tendons, functioning to support, stabilize, and allow the arm to move up, down and rotate. The rotator cuff ensures that the arm remains in the shoulder socket. Damage or injury from an accident or progressive degeneration can result in inflammation to this important set of muscles. A severe injury can then result in a rotator cuff tear. The common symptoms for a rotator cuff injury include: aching and weakness in the shoulder while lifting the arm, swelling and bruising of the area, followed by pain and inflammation.
Adhesive Capsulitis, otherwise known as frozen shoulder, is a condition caused when the capsule around the shoulder joint contracts and develops scar tissue, greatly limiting mobility and causing pain on the shoulder. Frozen shoulder is considered the second most common cause of shoulder pain and discomfort. The cause for this condition still remains unknown and is often misdiagnosed but, a careful observation of the symptoms of adhesive capsulitis can help distinguish the condition. The pain associated with the condition can be described as a dull, aching pain and on occasion, the pain can extend down the upper area of the arm. The most significant symptom of a frozen shoulder is shoulder stiffness.
Shoulder bursitis is a condition which results in the inflammation of the bursa in the shoulder joint. A bursa is a sac-like structure filled with fluid that serves as a cushion between the bones and tendons found in the human body, functioning to make movements between the joints smooth as well as decrease friction. When these fluid-filled sacs become inflamed, it develops into shoulder bursitis. Shoulder bursitis can occur due to overuse of the shoulder through repetitive overhead movements of the arms, due to injury from a fall, or while lifting heavy objects. The common symptoms for this condition include: pain and inflammation, swelling, and loss of motion of the shoulder joint which in turn may also develop into frozen shoulder. Visibly, shoulder bursitis causes the skin around the affected area to turn red.
Shoulder tendonitis is a condition caused by the inflammation and swelling of a tendon due to irritation, specifically in the shoulder region. The tendons are fibrous bands of tissue that attach the muscles to the bones. Rotator cuff tendonitis, or shoulder tendonitis, is among the most common site for tendon damage or injury. Overusing the shoulder during constant overhand motions, lifting heavy objects, or direct trauma from an injury to the shoulder may cause tendonitis. Also, as people age, the tendons lose their elasticity and fluid content, becoming more prone to irritation. Shoulder tendonitis symptoms include: pain with increased tissue temperature, swelling, and redness, followed by inflammation, and tenderness.
Shoulder fractures can occur in the different bones that make up the shoulder joint, the humerus (the arm bone), the clavicle (the collarbone), and the scapula at the glenoid (shoulder blade). In a humerus fracture, injury usually occurs at the top of the humerus, or the top of the arm bone, which forms the ball of the ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder. Clavicle fractures are the most common type of shoulder fracture, occurring on the bone over the top of the chest. Glenoid fractures, typically considered rare, occur at the socket of the ball-and-socket shoulder joint. And last, scapula fractures, also considered uncommon, occur on the flat bone that rests behind the rib cage. Shoulder fractures mainly occur from overuse and trauma from a previous accident. The symptoms suggesting the presence of a shoulder fracture include pain with simple shoulder movements, swelling of the shoulder and arm, bruising around the affected area that may travel down the arm, and joint deformity.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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