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What are the Different Types of Shoulder Injury?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The shoulder is a very complex part of the body held together by bones, muscles and tendons. When a person sustains a shoulder injury to any part of the shoulder, it can be very painful. There are different types of shoulder injuries which are often caused by injury, strain or repetitive motion.

A common injury to the shoulder is a rotator cuff strain, which is an injury or inflammation in one of the main tendons in the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries can result from bursitis, tendinitis, or strain caused by repeating an overhead lifting motion. This type of shoulder injury can also happen from a fall with injury to the shoulder and from poor posture. If left untreated, a rotator cuff strain can result in a full rotator cuff tear.

Another kind of injury is a dislocated shoulder that occurs from severe pulling or pushing that dislodges the shoulder out of place. When a shoulder becomes dislocated, the shoulder pops out of the socket. With some dislocations, the shoulder goes back in place without any help, however, in other situations a physician has to force the shoulder back in the socket. Once a person has sustained a dislocated shoulder, the shoulder may be susceptible to future dislocations.

Impingement syndrome is a type of injury caused by friction between the shoulder blade and rotator cuff. The friction is usually the result of inflammation in a tendon or muscle, which makes the shoulder blade and rotator cuff squeeze together. Bursitis in the shoulder can also create swelling leading to impingement syndrome. Impingement syndrome will eventually tear the shoulder muscle if the inflammation does not subside.

If a shoulder sustains an injury from an impact or aggressive shaking, the shoulder bone can fracture. These shoulder injuries are frequently in motor vehicle accident victims or people who have fallen. A shoulder fracture may be a full or partial fracture and involve the collarbone, shoulder or breastbone.

The elderly often have shoulder injuries caused by degenerative diseases such as arthritis or osteoporosis. People who have these conditions often develop shoulder strain, brittle bones and calcium deposits. Elderly people are also at risk of injuries because of their age and other medical conditions, which may cause them to fall and injure themselves.

In order to diagnose shoulder injuries, the person will have to undergo x-rays and possibly other diagnostic imaging. Depending on the type of injury, the orthopedist will recommend pain medication, shoulder stabilizer and physical therapy. Severe injuries that cause chronic pain or do not heal may require steroid injections and surgical shoulder repair.

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Discussion Comments
By Sequoia — On May 16, 2011

@Illych - You're right that the longer you wait to get it put back in place the more it's going to hurt. It doesn't hurt at first because the intense pain causes the body to release endorphins to lower pain and shock, but once the endorphins wear off then it's going to hurt a lot. This is why some people resort to doing it themselves.

You can try the method you mentioned where you let the arm hand and hope that the muscles loosen up and it will quickly pop back in, but I wouldn't recommend it. Sitting in the waiting room isn't fun but it’s best to have it done by a professional. To ease the pain you can ask a nurse for a small dose of muscle relaxants.

By Illych — On May 16, 2011

If your shoulder dislocates, I would strongly suggest not trying to put it back in place without any help. You could risk damaging your shoulder even further. The important thing is you seek treatment as soon as possible if you think you've dislocated your shoulder; it may not hurt much at first but it will soon, believe me. And it may be worse than you think.

My shoulder used to dislocate all the time and one thing the doctors would do at the hospital is have me lay face own with my arm hanging off the bed, hoping that the muscles and ligaments would loosen up and it'd easily pop back into place on it’s own.

This never worked and was always extremely painful and not worth the trouble. I’m honestly not sure being able to pop a shoulder back into place is something many people can do with ease by themselves, but I might be wrong. Do you know anyone who has been able to do it?

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