Dr. Daniel Vogel
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 7.5 million people went to the doctor's office for a shoulder problem, including shoulder and upper arm sprains and strains. More than 4.1 million of these visits were for rotator cuff problems and shoulder joint instability most often occurs from traumatic contact injuries.
Shoulder injuries are frequently caused by athletic activities that involve excessive, repetitive, overhead motion, such as swimming, tennis, pitching, and weightlifting. Injuries can also occur during everyday activities such washing walls, hanging curtains, and gardening.
The best immediate treatment for sprains or strains is R.I.C.E.— Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This can limit discomfort, minimize swelling, reduce healing time, and prepare the area for a physician to make an accurate diagnosis.
The best thing to remember about shoulder—and any other sports-induced injury—is that conditioning, prompt treatment of injuries, and rehabilitation are important because repetitive overuse injuries can lead to fractures, muscle tears, or bone deformities.
If an injury shows no signs of healing within the first week, it could be time to see an orthopedic surgeon. Signs that warrant a visit to an orthopedic surgeon include:
- Inability to resume activities following an acute or sudden injury
- Decreased ability to move because of chronic or long-term complications following an injury
- Visible deformity of your arms or legs
- Severe pain from acute injuries which prevent the use of an arm or leg
There are two ways to manage a shoulder injury—non-surgically and surgically. Nonsurgical management includes shoulder immobilization through braces or sleeves, which may limit function and level of play, or rehabilitation, which helps reconditions your shoulder within a few weeks. However, surgery may still be need for recurrent shoulder joint instability or if an athletic can not safely perform sport-specific drills.
Athletes should play it safe by:
- Undergoing proper training and conditioning, including general conditioning and sport-specific conditioning, stretching, and a closely-supervised weight training program
- Knowing and abiding by the rules of the sport
- Wearing appropriate protective gear
- Always warming up before playing
- Avoiding playing when very tired or in pain
- Only returning to play when, the player has no pain, no swelling, full range of motion, and normal strength
If your shoulder pain or injury does not improve, make an appointment with one our orthopaedic specialists.