What's Wrong With Your Shoulder? A Look At Common Shoulder Injuries

Is your shoulder feeling stiff or sore? Maybe it's so painful that you can't even lift your arm, or perhaps the soreness is more of a minor annoyance. In either case, it's important to figure out what, exactly, is wrong with your shoulder so that you can pursue the proper treatment. Here's a look at some of the most common shoulder injuries and how they are treated.


Your bursa are tiny, fluid-filled sacs located between the bones that comprise your shoulder joint. They help reduce friction when you bend the joint. When these bursa become inflamed, the resulting condition is known as bursitis. Usually, the pain caused by bursitis feels like a pinching that occurs when you move the elbow away from your body. You may also notice some swelling in and around your shoulder. Bursitis typically comes on slowly and becomes worse as you continue using your shoulder. It's considered an over-use injury and is common in people who repetitively lift items.

Luckily, bursitis is usually quite easy to treat. If you take a few weeks off from activities that strain your shoulder and apply ice to the area a few times per day, the symptoms should subside. If your shoulder is still bothering you after a few weeks of this treatment, see your orthopedic specialist. They may recommend physical therapy -- or in serious cases, drainage of the inflamed bursa using a special syringe.

Tendon Tears

Did the pain in your shoulder come on suddenly after you lifted something heavy or made a sudden movement? Are you finding it impossible to lift your arm in a certain direction? There is a good chance that you tore one of the tendons in your shoulder. Tendon tears are most common in older adults, but they also occur in athletes like pitchers and hockey players.

Unfortunately, most tendon tears need to be surgically repaired. You can keep yourself comfortable in the short-term by taking NSAIDs and applying ice to your shoulder, but make an appointment with your orthopedic doctor ASAP if you suspect a tear. The sooner you're treated, the shorter the recover process will be.

Rotator Cuff Tear

If you notice a clicking or snapping sound when you lift your arm, and if your shoulder feels weak overall, you may be dealing with a tear in your rotator cuff. Most patients with this injury can still use their shoulder, but laying on it or moving the arm in certain ways results in a sharp pain that then fades to an ache. 

Rotator cuff injuries are usually an over-use injury, resulting from making the same motion with your shoulder again and again. They're commonly seen in painters, window cleaner, and tennis players.

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. Minor rotator cuff tears may heal on their own with a few months of rest, physical therapy, and ice treatment. If this alone does not heal your tear, your orthopedic doctor may recommend cortisone injections, which jump-start the body's healing process. The most serious of cases require surgical repair.

Dislocated Shoulder

A dislocated occurs when the head of the humerus, the bone that forms the upper arm, pops out of the shoulder socket. The result is an arm that hangs limp, serious pain in the shoulder, and a feeling of unsteadiness in the shoulder. It's hard to ignore a dislocated shoulder, and the injury usually occurs suddenly -- when you're hit in the shoulder or fall on your arm.

Usually, a doctor can put a dislocated shoulder back into place, and then recommend pain relievers to keep you comfortable in the days and weeks that follow. The dislocation often strains various tendons and muscles in the joint, and these can take a while to heal. You may also need to see a physical therapist and complete certain rehabilitation exercises to prevent your shoulder from dislocating again. For more information, contact companies like Town Center Orthopaedic Associates, P.C.