Minor shoulder problems, such as sore muscles and aches and pains,
are common. Shoulder problems develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or
an injury. They can also be caused by the natural process of aging.
Your shoulder joints move every time you move your arms. To better
understand shoulder problems and injuries, you may want to review the anatomy
and function of the
shoulder. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with
three main bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula). These
bones are held together by muscles,
ligaments. The shoulder joint has the greatest
range of motion of any joint in the body. Because of
this mobility, the shoulder is more likely to be injured or cause problems. The
acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which lies over the top
of the shoulder, is also easily injured.
Shoulder problems can be
minor or serious. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, numbness, tingling,
weakness, changes in temperature or color, or changes in your range of motion.
Shoulder injuries most commonly occur during sports activities, work-related
tasks, projects around the home, or falls. Home treatment often can help
relieve minor aches and pains.
Injuries are the most common
cause of shoulder pain.
A sudden (acute) injury may occur from a
fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the shoulder, or abnormal
twisting or bending of the shoulder. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising
and swelling may develop soon after the injury. If nerves or blood vessels have
been injured or pinched during the injury, the shoulder, arm, or hand may feel
numb, tingly, weak, or cold, or it may look pale or blue. Acute injuries
You may not recall having a specific
injury, especially if symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities.
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other
tissue, often by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity.
Overuse injuries include:
Overuse and acute
injuries are common causes of shoulder symptoms. Less common causes of shoulder
Treatment for a shoulder injury may include
first aid measures, physical therapy, medicine, and, in some cases, surgery.
Treatment depends on:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
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If a cast or splint is applied, it is
important to keep it dry and to try to move the uninjured parts of your limb as
normally as possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor
will give you instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint.
Home treatment may
help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
If your injury does
not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to
help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness. It may take up to 6 weeks or longer
before your symptoms are gone. Use
rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for home
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
The following tips may prevent shoulder
problems or injuries.
Shoulder injuries such as bruises,
fractures, or dislocations may be caused by
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the
explanations for the cause of the injury change. Seek help if:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
If you have a shoulder problem, the following list of
questions may help you and your doctor determine how much your shoulder and arm
function has changed.
August 23, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& David Messenger, MD
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