5 Common Shoulder Conditions

Your shoulders are inherently unstable ball-and-socket joints, a feature that allows your arms to enjoy wide ranges of motion. Due to this instability, however, these joints are also more susceptible to damage and injury.

As orthopaedic experts, our team here at Western Orthopaedics understands the many shoulder conditions that can develop and how to treat them. If you’re dealing with shoulder pain, stiffness, or loss of range of motion, here’s a look at five of the more common shoulder conditions.

1. Shoulder instability

Since we began with the fact that your shoulders are inherently unstable joints, let’s start with shoulder instability. This condition often afflicts young people or athletes and occurs when the ligaments and tendons that hold your arm to your shoulder are overstretched.

The symptoms of shoulder instability include pain, a looseness in your shoulder, and weakness in your arm.

In most cases, we can treat shoulder instability by recommending that you take a break from any activity that strains the soft tissues in your arms. We also advise that you have physical therapy and take anti-inflammatory medications. If the instability is severe, we may need to turn to surgery to tighten the connective tissues.

2. Rotator cuff tear

Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that come together as tendons, and they attach your arm to your shoulder. When this tissue tears, usually due to overuse or degeneration, you may feel some pain and lose the ability to raise your arm.

Our treatments for a rotator cuff tear depend upon the degree of the tear. If it’s a partial tear, we recommend conservative treatments including immobilization, regenerative medicine, and physical therapy. If you’ve developed a complete tear, we likely need to go in surgically to repair the tissue.

3. Separated or dislocated shoulder

These types of shoulder conditions usually stem from a hard blow or fall that tears the ligaments that hold your collarbone and shoulder blade together. Some of the telltale signs of a shoulder separation include pain, limited movement, and a visible bump on the top of your shoulder.

If your ligaments tear completely, you may develop a dislocated shoulder, in which case you need our help sooner rather than later so that we can pull your shoulder back into position.

In either case, we recommend that you come see us so that we can determine the extent of the problem and design an appropriate treatment plan, which can include rest (immobilization), icing, physical therapy, and/or surgery.

4. Shoulder impingement

If your shoulder blade places too much pressure on the tissues below when you raise your arm, you may develop shoulder impingement. This shoulder condition can quickly lead to bursitis and tendonitis in your shoulder.

The primary signs of an impingement are pain and stiffness in your shoulders.

In most cases, we treat a shoulder impingement with rest, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections.

5. Arthritis

Like most of your other joints, your shoulders can develop osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage inside your joints breaks down. There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are many steps we can take to relieve the pain and stiffness, including:

If the damage is too great, we may recommend shoulder replacement surgery.

No matter what’s causing problems in your shoulder(s), rest assured that we can help. To get started, contact one of our two offices in Arvada or Denver, Colorado, to set up an appointment.

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