Whether you open a door, drive a car, or brush your teeth, you use your shoulders for multiple daily tasks. Many individuals don’t think about how much they use their shoulders — until they start to hurt.
Shoulder injuries can happen suddenly, such as when you fall on an outstretched arm or lift a heavy object. But more commonly, shoulder injuries occur as a result of repeated overhead motions, such as painting, swimming, housecleaning, or gardening.
Rotator cuff injuries
The majority of shoulder injuries involve the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder bones together. If these muscles become stressed due to repeated motions or overuse, they can become inflamed. In this case, you may notice shoulder pain while doing an activity, or your shoulder may hurt when you sleep on the affected side. Over time, pain may increase.
If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, it’s important to see an orthopedic physician. He or she will talk with you about your symptoms and run any necessary tests. If your physician determines that your rotator cuff is inflamed, he or she may recommend a variety of treatment options, including:
- Rest. You may have to avoid certain activities and/or wear a sling to allow your muscles to heal.
- Medications. Many anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can provide pain relief and help with inflammation.
- Ice. Placing ice packs on the shoulder for short periods of time can provide relief.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist who is experienced in shoulder injuries can guide you through exercises to help you regain mobility and strength.
- Exercises. Your physician may show you how to do specific exercises that are appropriate for your injury. These can help you regain strength and relieve pain.
Rotator cuff tears
In more serious cases, the muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff can tear. Rotator cuff tears often result from injuries and overuse, but can also happen with normal aging. If your rotator cuff is torn, you may notice shoulder pain all the time, even when you’re not using your shoulder. You may also notice decreased strength in the affected shoulder.
If your physician determines that your rotator cuff is torn, he or she may recommend one or more of the measures listed above. Some tears can successfully heal on their own if you treat the shoulder with care, and follow the advice of your physician. Steroid injections may also provide pain relief for tears that are very painful.
More serious tears, however, may need to be corrected with surgery. A variety of procedures can be done to relieve pain and restore strength. After the procedure, you may need rehabilitation and/or physical therapy. An expert orthopedic surgeon at CarePoint Health will guide you through the process and discuss the best surgical technique for your individual needs and lifestyle. Most patients report an excellent outcome after rotator cuff surgery.
CarePoint Health's Bone Health program is designed to help prevent, detect, and treat osteoporosis and low bone density. To learn more about our orthopedic services, contact CarePoint Health at 1-877-791-7000.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.