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Management of Shoulder Injuries and Pain

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By Dr. Veerender M, Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement Surgeon

Dr. Veerender M

Shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and is also susceptible to a number of injuries and tears. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has allowed everyone some time to engage in hobbies and initiate workout routines. But this can also aggravate existing shoulder pain or give rise to new injuries hence it is imperative to understand the ways to manage and treat the pain.

Various “overhand” and “overhead” sports involve arm rotations, like tennis, volleyball, swimming, and cricket where one uses different muscle mechanisms. Hence, these sports can cause shoulder instability due to the nature of shoulder movements required while performing these activities.  Repeating the same rotating motion can loosen the shoulder ligaments and increase the possibility of a dislocated shoulder.

It is recommended to pay close attention to how the shoulder feels while playing a particular sport. It is important that one pays attention to the sudden changes or pain in the shoulder joint while indulging in a sport or workout regime. The loose feeling or a quick pain while raising the arm overhead, like slipping or pinching in the shoulder area, could be a sign of “shoulder subluxation” which requires an immediate consultation from a physical therapist.

Over or frequent use of the shoulder can lead to various problems in the rotator cuff, the four muscles around the shoulder along the tendons which attach these muscles to the scapula, collarbone, and upper arm.

A few common injuries that are caused due to excess activity are:

Tendonitis- Tennis and badminton players often experience tendonitis in the rotator cuff. Shoulder pain is common here like any other shoulder injuries but this can cause a tear in the tendon and have serious repercussions.

Impingement- This is common amongst swimmers, tennis players, and golfers. It is caused due to frequent shoulder rotation. Shoulder discomfort and pain can be seen in some patients. Sometimes the pain can even interrupt sleep if pressure is put upon the injured shoulder.

Labral tear- It is caused due to the shoulder dislocation or applying excessive force on the joint like during a fall or by getting hit. One may feel a pop or a catching sensation in the shoulders while moving them followed by aching for several hours.

Rotator cuff tears- It happens due to the overuse of the shoulder, especially during sports that require a high force during rotation, like that in tennis, throwball, cricket, etc. These tears cause extreme pain and weakness in the injured shoulder.

Quadrilateral syndrome- This is related to the nerves in the shoulder. It makes one feel shoulder pain, numbness or tingling in the arm, and sensitivity to any kind of pressure over that area.

Preventive care for Shoulder Injuries

Wall Stretches- Stand in front of a wall and place one arm horizontally on the wall, now move your body towards the other hand as the shoulder joint gets stretched. Hold for a few seconds and release. Keep repeating on both sides.

Pendulum Movement- Let your arm hang towards the floor and relax the muscle of your shoulders. Now move the upper body in a seating motion side to side which will make the shoulders move in pendulum movement.Along with this, it is also important to maintain a good posture, avoid repetitive overhead movements, and avoid carrying heavy things on one shoulder.

What can be done in case of shoulder injuries?

These problems can often improve with the help of timely treatment and physical therapy as soon as the symptoms occur. In case of some severe injuries, surgeries might be the only viable option to relieve the stress and create mobility in the joint. Like in the case of a frozen shoulder, in some rare cases, surgery is recommended to remove the adhesions and scar tissue from inside of the shoulder joint. It is important to remember that most of these injuries are a result of overuse of the shoulder, the more intense any sport is, the more one needs to rest in between the intervals. Always listen to the body. If the shoulder pain continues even after a day or two of rest, then consulting a physical therapist or doctor is a must without any further delays.

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