A Practical Guide to Treating Shoulder Injuries

If you are like most people, you probably take your shoulder for granted. After all, it’s one of the strongest and most versatile joints in your body. But what would you do if you injured it? A shoulder injury can be quite painful and debilitating. In this article, we will discuss the different types of shoulder injuries, their symptoms, and how to treat them.


Acromioclavicular Joint Injuries


The acromioclavicular joint, more commonly referred to as the AC joint, is a small articulation between the clavicle and the acromion. This joint is responsible for flexion and extension of the shoulder, and abduction and adduction of the arm. The AC joint is also responsible for the stability of the shoulder girdle.

AC joint injuries are common in both athletic and non-athletic populations. A direct blow to the AC joint, such as in a fall onto the outstretched arm, can cause an AC joint sprain or rupture. Symptoms of an AC joint injury include pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the shoulder.

Treatment for an AC joint injury depends on the severity of the injury. A mild sprain may only require rest, ice, and compression therapy. A more severe sprain or rupture may require surgery to repair the ligaments that have been injured. Physical therapy may also be necessary to regain strength and range of motion in the shoulder.


Glenohumeral Joint Injuries


The glenohumeral joint, more commonly referred to as the shoulder joint, is a synovial ball and socket joint that allows for a large range of motion in the arm. The shoulder joint is composed of the humerus (the bone of the upper arm), the scapula (the shoulder blade), and the clavicle (the collarbone).

The Glenohumeral Joint is susceptible to a wide variety of injuries, including dislocations, rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and biceps ruptures. Many of these injuries can be effectively treated with physical therapy. Physical therapy may include exercises to improve range of motion, strength, and stability. Surgery may also be necessary in some cases.


Clavicle Fractures


Most clavicle fractures occur when someone falls directly on their shoulder. A direct blow to the collarbone can also cause a fracture. Symptoms of a clavicle fracture may include pain, swelling, and bruising around the area of the break. A fractured clavicle will likely be very painful and you may find it difficult to move your arm. Treatment for a clavicle fracture typically includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). A sling may also be worn to keep the arm still and allow the bone to heal properly. Surgery is rarely necessary for a clavicle fracture.


Proximal Humerus Fractures


A proximal humerus fracture is a break that occurs near the shoulder joint. This type of fracture is often caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and bruising around the shoulder. A doctor can diagnose a proximal humerus fracture with a physical exam and x-rays.

Treatment for a proximal humerus fracture depends on the severity of the injury. Non-surgical treatment involves using a sling or brace to keep the arms stationary and limit movement. Surgery may be required if the bone is displaced or if there is damage to nearby tissues and nerves. After surgery, rehabilitation will be necessary to regain strength and range of motion in the shoulder.


Rotator Cuff Tears


Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common shoulder injuries. A rotator cuff tear is a tear in the muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles and tendons help lift your arm.

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include:


  • A popping or snapping sound in your shoulder when you move it
  • A feeling that your shoulder is weak or unstable
  • Pain in the front, side, or back of your shoulder
  • Difficulty raising your arm above your head


If you think you have a rotator cuff tear, see a doctor. Treatment for a rotator cuff tear depends on how severe the injury is. Some people may only need physical therapy, while others.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, don’t wait any longer to seek treatment. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can return to your regular activities. Give Dr. Stephen S. Chen, MD a call today and he will work with you to develop a treatment plan that gets you back to feeling like yourself again.


Are You Looking for a Sports Medicine Physician You Can Trust?


Dr. Chen sees patients at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital Center for Sports Medicine in Walnut Creek, California. He is a board-certified Pediatrician and Sports Medicine Doctor that specializes in the non-operative medical treatment of a wide variety of various musculoskeletal conditions, including back injuries.  Dr. Chen graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine and went on to complete Pediatric residency training at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey (Rutgers), then went on to fellowship training in Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, one of the perennially top-ranked children’s hospitals in the nation. There he provided sideline coverage for NCAA Division I athletics at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University (OH). Since graduating, Dr. Chen has continued his love of sports coverage by volunteering for the San Francisco Marathon, the San Francisco Giant Race, and as the team physician for Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. Being a part of The Center for Sports Medicine allows Dr. Chen quick access to a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, physiatrists, and physical therapists to return you to your highest functional level quickly and safely. Click here to contact us for your next appointment!


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