Today, we’ll be shedding some light on the most common injuries affecting the most mobile joint in the human body: the shoulder.
Due to its high mobility, shoulder pain is common in multiple populations, from the elderly to children, both active and inactive.
If you carry a heavy purse or briefcase, have a job that requires manual labor, or are a parent with a young child you might have experienced shoulder aches and pains.
Parts of the Shoulder
To understand the injuries affecting the shoulder, it helps to know the basic anatomy of the joint.
- Joint type: The shoulder consists of a ball and socket type of joint which permits movement in a wide degree of angles.
- Moving parts: The bony surfaces of the humerus (upper arm), scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collarbone) are held together by the rotator cuff muscles. These muscles help stabilize the humerus and allow movement of the arm in all directions. The humerus then fits in a socket to form a joint capsule, which allows for fast, yet smooth changes in direction.
- The “glue”: Finally, there are ligaments and tendons which connect all the moving parts and bursae (small sacs filled with fluid) which help cushion and stabilize the joint capsule to minimize friction during movement.
Injury to the shoulder can be caused by any number of factors. These may include: heavy lifting, falls, repetitive movements, inflammation, and laxity due to aging.
Here are some of the most common shoulder problems:
- Rotator cuff tendinitis
Tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendon connecting the rotator cuff muscles to bone. It is frequently caused by repetitive motion of the joint as seen in baseball or it can progress slowly over many months to years until the pain becomes unbearable. Degenerative changes contribute to occurrence with advancing age. It is essential to get adequate rest, nutrition and proper supplementation to prevent the onset of tendinitis. Other common inflammatory conditions of the shoulder include bursitis (inflammation of a bursa sac), biceps tendinitis and adhesive capsulitis (stiff shoulder).
- Rotator Cuff Tear
The rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles that contribute to the stability and integrity of the shoulder joint. A tear in any of the muscles that make up the rotator cuff typically results from a direct, forceful blow, overstretching or a significant fall or accident. While a sprain of the joint can result in occasional pain, weakness with restricted movement at the shoulder usually points to something more serious. The severity of symptoms may vary depending on the particular muscle(s) affected, as well as the degree of the tear itself. The risk of a traumatic rotator cuff tear increases with age, but may also occur in athletes due to overuse. Therefore, be sure to take note of persistent shoulder pain. When suspected, a form of imaging (such as MRI) is used to confirm a tear and treatment might require surgery if symptoms do not improve.
Dislocation of the shoulder joint follows abrupt contact, a fall or other trauma. It can occur at the anterior or posterior aspect of the shoulder, that is at the front or back of the joint, respectively. While a dislocation is treatable without surgery, it is crucial that it is handled with care due to the many blood vessels and nerves close to the joint. A common complication of dislocation is impingement of one of the tendons between the humerus and the end of the clavicle. While tears and inflammation can cause swelling leading indirectly to impingement, a dislocation directly leaves the muscles, blood vessels and nerves vulnerable to damage.
A fracture of the shoulder occurs most commonly at the clavicle. Any high-impact fall or direct blow to the shoulder area can cause a break in people of all ages and activity levels. A fracture of the proximal humerus (the part connecting the forearm to the shoulder joint) is most common in elderly persons. Any broken bone will cause severe pain and bruise. Swelling in the area may also lead to complications, so fractures always need to be treated with urgency.
What to do next
If you consistently experience shoulder pain, it might be a good idea to get it checked by your doctor or physical therapist.
As with all musculoskeletal injuries, there are many preventative measures you can take such as muscle strengthening, improving posture and core stability, managing stress well, getting adequate sleep, and ensuring you are eating foods that contain nutrients that support the growth and maintenance of healthy muscle, bone, tendons, and ligaments.
Artic Flex is one step you can take today by providing your bones and joints with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Don't know much about the benefits of krill oil? Check out this post on how it helps fight inflammation.