A very useful, though unstable joint.
The shoulder is the most movable joint in the body. It is also one of the most unstable. Frequent problems include sprains, strains, dislocations, tendonitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuffs, fractures and arthritis.
The shoulder is unlike other joints in the body, as it is not a true ball and socket like the more stable hip joint. The shoulder is much more like a golf ball and tee, where the ball can easily slip off due to problems with muscles, tendons or ligaments.
Specific diagnosis of injury is critical.
There are many different soft tissues in the shoulder including ligaments, tendons and muscles. Each of these has the ability to be compromised by improper motion or overuse. These soft tissues all work together to create the movement and strength required for proper function, making diagnosis of the troubled area more difficult.
There are a number of conditions specifically seen in shoulder-related problems. These include rotator cuff injuries, most commonly seen in athletes who throw or use a similar motion such as pitchers, quarterbacks and tennis players. No one is immune from these injuries, as they may also occur from performing routine tasks that put a sudden strain on the shoulder.
Another common disorder is adhesive capsulitis or “frozen shoulder”, where scar tissue has formed around the shoulder. It is characterized by a dull or aching pain and loss of motion or stiffness in the shoulder.
The superior labral tear or “slap lesion” as it is often called, is an injury to the cartilage that covers the top part of the shoulder socket. This can occur from falling on an outstretched arm but sometimes the cause may be unknown. A patient with this type of injury may have a clicking noise when they move their arm or pain in the front or top of the shoulder.
Shoulder Impingement Syndrome is often seen in aging adults. In this circumstance, blood flow is compromised causing muscle tissue to fray like old rope. Typical symptoms include pain and difficulty reaching behind the back or with overhead use of the arm. If this process continues and blood flow is not restored, further injury may result.
The shoulder is a significant referral site where pain may occur from injuries or conditions existing in other parts of the body, such as the neck, lower back, hip and leg. Symptoms of cardiovascular disease may also be referred to the shoulder region making the sudden onset of shoulder pain an issue that should be immediately evaluated.