The shoulder joint is capable of a wider and more varied range of motion than any other joint in the human body. This extraordinary flexibility has allowed human beings to do everything from swinging a sledgehammer to rocking a baby.
Unfortunately, because the shoulder is so flexible, it also tends to be unstable. And this instability contributes to a variety of problems that includes sprains, strains, dislocations, separations, tendonitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuffs, frozen shoulder, fractures, and arthritis.
Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by work and athletic activities that involve excessive, repetitive overhead motion, such as painting and hanging wallpaper, washing windows, swimming, tennis, pitching, and weightlifting.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. Most ball and socket joints are constructed of a large socket into which the ball fits nicely. This is a very stable type of joint. The shoulder joint, on the other hand, is made up of a ball which is larger than the socket. This is not a very stable type of joint. Because of this large ball and small socket, the shoulder is easily injured. To remain stable, the shoulder must be anchored by its muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Although the shoulder is easily injured during sporting activities and manual labor, the primary source of shoulder problems appears to be the natural age-related degeneration of the surrounding soft tissues such as those found in the rotator cuff. The incidence of rotator cuff problems rises dramatically as a function of age and is generally seen among individuals who are more than 60 years old. Overuse of the shoulder can lead to more rapid age-related deterioration.
Shoulder pain may be localized or may be felt in areas around the shoulder or down the arm. The symptoms of shoulder problems, as well as their diagnosis and treatment vary widely, depending upon the specific problem. The following conditions are some of the most common problems that affect the shoulder. For more information about specific shoulder problems, please click on the conditons below:
· Arthritis of the Shoulder
· Biceps Tendon Rupture
· Broken Collarbone (Clavicle)
· Burners and Stingers
· Frozen Shoulder
· Rotator Cuff Injury
If you do not know the name of your shoulder problem, click here to learn about it.
As with any medical issue, a shoulder problem is generally diagnosed using a three-part process:
- medical history - The patient tells the doctor about any injury or other condition that might be causing the pain.
- physical examination - The doctor examines the patient to feel for injury and to discover the limits of movement, location of pain, and extent of joint instability.
- tests - The doctor may order one or more of the tests listed below to make a specific diagnosis. These tests may include the following:
- Standard x ray - a familiar procedure in which low-level radiation is passed through the body to produce a picture called a radiograph. An x ray is useful for diagnosing fractures or other problems of the bones. Soft tissues, such as muscles and tendons, do not show up on x rays.
- Arthrogram - a diagnostic record that can be seen on an x ray after injection of a contrast fluid into the shoulder joint to outline structures such as the rotator cuff. In disease or injury, this contrast fluid may either leak into an area where it does not belong, indicating a tear or opening, or be blocked from entering an area where there normally is an opening.
- Ultrasound - a noninvasive, patient-friendly procedure in which a small, hand-held scanner is placed on the skin of the shoulder. Just as ultrasound waves can be used to visualize the fetus during pregnancy, they can also be reflected off the rotator cuff and other structures to form a high-quality image of them. The accuracy of ultrasound for the rotator cuff is particularly high.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - a noninvasive procedure in which a machine with a strong magnet passes a force through the body to produce a series of cross-sectional images of the shoulder.