Treating the most movable joint
The shoulder joint is the most movable joint in the human body, allowing you to reach up, out, down, and move in a range of motion. Athletes involved in nearly every sport depend on their shoulders to catch, swing, dive, and perform a variety of movements. Three bones come together to form the joint – the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm (humerus). Muscles, tendons, and ligaments all hold the shoulder together. The shoulder joint is prone to become unstable because the ball joint at the top of the humerus is actually larger than the socket that holds it.
Types of Shoulder Injuries
Because of its flexibility and movement, the shoulder can be a primary location for sports injuries. Damage to the rotator cuff (muscles, tendons, and ligaments holding the joint together) is the most common shoulder injury.
Common shoulder injuries include:
- Torn rotator cuff – stretch, tear, or wearing of shoulder muscles, tendons, ligaments
- Sprains and strains – stretch or tearing of tendons and/or ligaments
- Shoulder separation or dislocation – joint bones are forced out of normal position
- Tendinitis – painful inflammation of the tendon holding muscle to bone
- Bursitis – inflammation and/swelling of the sac surrounding the joint
- Fracture – a break in one of the three shoulder bones
- Arthritis – inflammation swelling of joints
Diagnosing shoulder injuries often involves a team approach, with primary care physicians, orthopaedic specialists, and diagnostic imaging coming together to determine the extent of the injury. After an injury is sustained, the patient will often visit with a physician for a general orthopaedic referral. An orthopaedic specialists or sports medicine specialist will conduct a thorough examination, including review of medical history and physical exam. The specialist may order diagnostic imaging, such as X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to get a better image of the injured area.
Most shoulder injuries can be treated through rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Pain and anti-inflammatory medication may also be recommended or prescribed. Immobilization of the joint with a sling may be recommended. Physical therapy may also be employed to help patients regain movement and flexibility. If damage to the joint is too severe for traditional treatment, surgery may be advised to repair the damage or even replace the entire joint.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Technology has advanced to allow many surgical procedures to be performed arthroscopically, using small incisions and devices utilizing tiny cameras to assist orthopaedic surgeons. This minimally invasive surgery allows patients to recover much sooner than traditional open surgery. Arthroscopic surgery leaves smaller scars, has less instance of infection, and has seen proven results for athletes and other patients.