Technically know as the glenohumeral joint, their are many conditions that can cause pain in the shoulder area. The most common is injury to the soft tissues including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, labrum and bursa that make up the joint.
Specific injuries include:
Subacromial Impingement Syndrome – Results when the bursa and tendons are pinched between the bones in the shoulder, causing pain and inflammation. Commonly known as ‘swimmers shoulder’, this generally results from repetitive overhead movement and causes pain when lifting arms overhead.
Rotator cuff injuries – The rotator cuff is a group of 4 tendons that surround the humeral head and provide muscular support to the shoulder. These tendons can be injured during lifting, when playing throwing sports, or after repetitive use. They present with pain on lifting or with exercise.
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain – The bones that comprise the AC joint, the collarbone (clavicle) and shoulder blade (scapular) are connected by ligaments. With trauma to the shoulder, these ligaments can be stretched or torn resulting in separation of the two bones. Injury to this joint usually results in a ‘step-deformity’ on top of the shoulder.
Tendonitis – With repetitive strain and overstretching the tendons in the shoulder can gradually become swollen and inflamed. This is referred to as tendinitis and presents with pain and weakness when lifting or when lying on the affected shoulder.
Glenohumeral joint subluxation/dislocation – Results when the head of the humerus ‘pops’ out of the glenoid cavity. This tends to be more common and frequent in those people that have a pre-existing labral tear and normally occurs during high velocity injuries. Early relocation of the joint is imperative to minimise the damage to the surrounding soft-tissue and subsequent level of impairment.
Glenohumeral labral tear – is a tear in the labrum or cartilage of the shoulder. The labrum provides addition stability to the shoulder joint and when damaged makes it more prone to dislocation. Labral tears are often caused by repetitive throwing or a single accident where one falls onto an outstretched arm (FOOSH injury).
Adhesive capsulitis – better known as ‘frozen shoulder’, this is a poorly understood pathology that results in significant shoulder pain and restriction of movement. It is important to detect frozen shoulder as early as possible to limit the extent of dysfunction once the shoulder has reached a ‘frozen’ state.
Also known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow refers to pain and inflammation in the muscles on the outside of the elbow (pain on the inside is known as ‘golfers elbow’ or medial epicondylitis). In both conditions, the cause of the pain and weakness is repeated stress that creates tiny tears in the muscles at the point of attachment on the inside or outside of the elbow. Besides using a racquet, the repetitive nature of common tasks such as typing, using a screwdriver, or a hammer can cause these symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes altered sensation and/or pain in the fingers and palm. It is caused by excess pressure being placed on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel (wrist). The medial nerve provides sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger and it is symptoms into this distribution that indicate you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition is most common in computer operators who engage in repetitive finger movements as they type and use the mouse. Symptoms start as a mild tingling or pins and needles into the hand but as it progresses can develop into numbness and reduced grip strength as the muscles get smaller and weaker (atrophy).