The shoulder has the most mobility of any joint in the body. Even small injuries can result in significant loss of use of the shoulder. One of the most common injuries to the shoulder is the Rotator Cuff. The Rotator Cuff consists of 4 separate muscles and can be injured by overuse, repetitive smaller injuries, or a single larger injury. Most injuries will result in either weakness, stiffness, or instability of the joint. Because of the significant number of muscles around the joint, rehabilitation plays an extremely important role in getting back in the game. When surgery is needed to heal injury, minimally invasive techniques are utilized to reduce the length of disability and allow a faster return to activities.

AC Joint Injury (the separated shoulder)

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is the meeting point of the acromion and clavicle bones in the shoulder area, often indicated with a visible bump in the area. AC joint injuries often occur as a result of a fall or other trauma, which may cause the acromion to move or separate from the clavicle, or cause the ligaments to be stretched or torn.

While conservative treatment is often used first for AC joint injuries, surgery may be required for injuries that are more severe or those that cause prolonged pain.

Labral Tear

A labrum is a protective cuff of cartilage found in ball and socket joints like the hip and shoulder. They provide more stability, cushioning and a full range of motion for these shallow joints. A tear in the labrum, known as a labral tear or Bankart tear, is caused by injury or overuse and can lead to pain and “catching” of the joint while moving. A dislocation of the shoulder is a common cause of labral tears and can result in the shoulder feeling unstable or sliding out of joint.

Treating a Shoulder Dislocation

After a shoulder dislocation, physical therapy is commonly used to help restore motion, reduce pain and regain strength. The labrum has a very poor ability to heal on its own. Labral repair surgery, or Arthroscopic Bankart Repair, aims to repair unstable shoulders with arthroscopic surgery.

What is a rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is the thick band of muscles and tendons that covers the top of the upper arm and holds in its place, providing stability and a full range of motion to the shoulder joint. It is made of four muscles and their associated tendons. These tendons can become partially or completely torn as a result of a rotator cuff tear. A rotator cuff tear most often occurs as a result of overuse of the muscles over a long period of time. As a result, this condition is most common in patients over the age of 40. It may also occur as a result of a traumatic injury, and involves pain when lifting or lowering their arm, muscle weakness, and atrophy.

Rotator Cuff Repair

Many rotator cuff tears can be treated through nonsurgical methods that focus on relieving pain and restoring function to the shoulder. These may include:

  • Rest
  • Use of a sling
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

Surgery may be recommended for tears that cause severe pain or that do not respond to more conservative treatments. The type of surgery performed depends on the size and location of the tear, but often involves trimming torn edges or suturing the tendon back together.

Schedule a Consultation

To learn more or to schedule a consultation contact us today at (508) 363-6363. Our practice proudly serves Worcester, MA, and surrounding areas.

More Information

My Shoulders Are Letting Me Down

We rely on our shoulders for countless tasks. It can be problematic when they don’t function at our best and can make ordinary tasks a challenge. Finding a cause behind unstable shoulders can help bring pain relief and peace of mind. Here are some reasons behind your shoulder pain and what you can do to treat it.

What Causes Shoulder Instability?

Your shoulders play a pivotal role in how you go about your daily life. Unstable shoulders can frequently come out of place, making everyday activities difficult. 

One cause of shoulder instability is severe trauma to the shoulder. An injury such as a dislocation causes the head of your shoulder to dislocate from the socket. The initial shoulder dislocation can result in repeated dislocations and further instability.

Genetics may be another cause of shoulder instability. Some people are born with naturally loose shoulder ligaments. Excessively loose shoulder ligaments called Hyperlaxity can cause shoulder instability. This can occur without prior dislocations or a history of strains. Hyperlaxity can increase the chances of dislocating your shoulder or weakening the joint.

Symptoms of Shoulder Instability

Several symptoms characterize shoulder instability. Shoulder instability symptoms include

  • A loose feeling in the shoulder
  • The shoulder giving out
  • Repeated shoulder dislocations
  • Pain

How is Shoulder Instability Diagnosed?

Professional examination is how shoulder instability is diagnosed. 

If you’re having shoulder trouble, your doctor can order imaging tests to find the cause. One tool to find the cause of your shoulder pain is an x-ray. The x-ray helps doctors to take a thorough look at the bones around your shoulder joint and examine them for signs of injury. Your doctor may also order an MRI for further examination. An MRI provides a detailed image of the tissues around your shoulder and helps find damage to the ligaments and tendons in the joint.

How Are Unstable Shoulders Treated?

Your treatment plan depends on the nature and severity of your symptoms. First, you may need to avoid activities that worsen your symptoms. If you can’t stay away from pain-inducing activities, modifying your movements may help give you some relief. Also, anti-inflammatory pain medications and physical therapy can help.

If your shoulder problems need more aggressive treatment, our office can help. Schedule a consultation by calling (508) 363-6363.