All About Shoulders

Havalee Henry, M.D., M.S.

The shoulder is one of the strongest and most flexible joints in the body. It is ball and socket-like in nature, which is advantageous for its range of motion. Composed of bones, joints, tendons and soft tissues, the shoulder allows for complex movement, including rotation, weight-bearing activities and reaching. Unfortunately, that means shoulder injuries are also very common. 

What are the most common shoulder injuries?

Countless conditions can affect the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears, arthritis, inflammation, and tendonitis are a few examples of some of the most common types of injuries. Each of the shoulder’s components plays a role in maintaining its health. Cartilage and tendons are among the most likely to become injured or affected by overuse, age, or sudden trauma. 

Can younger people suffer from shoulder injuries?

Shoulder injuries can happen to anyone at any age! Physically active individuals, young and old, are susceptible to shoulder injuries during sports or play. A young athlete who is knocked down during a football game, or a young pitcher who throws a baseball too hard, are both as likely to tear their rotator cuff as an aging golf enthusiast. 

While older individuals may be more likely to experience cartilage-related injuries, the rotator cuff is a common site of injury throughout all age groups. 

How are shoulder injuries managed?

Shoulder injuries may be very painful, whether they are the result of a traumatic accident or degenerative wear and tear. Luckily, there are a variety of advanced and innovative solutions for treating shoulder injuries in people of all ages.

Arthroscopic surgery is one of the most common treatments for mild to moderate shoulder injuries, such as a torn rotator cuff or labral tear. This minimally-invasive procedure makes it easy for a trained orthopaedic surgeon to safely and effectively repair the shoulder tear with little or no risk to surrounding tissues. 

For more severe shoulder injuries, such as irreparable tears or worsening arthritis, a total shoulder replacement may be the best solution. Total shoulder replacements have come a long way in modern medicine. Now, there are not one but TWO solutions for artificial shoulder replacement, depending on the severity and type of injury. 

An anatomic shoulder replacement mimics the natural anatomy of the shoulder to improve range of motion and mobility. A reverse total shoulder replacement “reverses” the normal ball and socket composition of the shoulder, allowing the shoulder to rely on different muscle groups for movement. Your orthopaedic specialist will talk with you in detail about the best shoulder replacement for you if necessary. 

How long is the recovery period of a shoulder injury?

The recovery period will depend on a variety of factors, including the patient’s age, injury, and severity. Your orthopaedic specialist will walk you through the treatment process, outlining your specific recovery period. 

Generally speaking, it may take several months to fully recover from the shoulder injury and surgery. During this time, you will engage in physical therapy to strengthen the joint and regain mobility.

How can I prevent a shoulder injury? 

Shoulder injuries can easily be prevented in people of all ages. As they are generally the result of overuse, protecting the shoulder joint and its many components are essential. One way to ensure shoulder health is to regularly stretch before and after any kind of physical activity. This goes especially for individuals who are regularly active. 

Individuals who are just getting into a sport or are becoming active after a long rest period should seek the help of a sports medicine doctor or orthopaedic specialist for a comprehensive evaluation. These trained professionals will be able to develop a specific plan to keep your shoulder and other joints from suffering injury as you get back into these activities. 

If you’re interested in learning more about protecting the shoulder joint, schedule your appointment with one of The Orthopaedic Institute’s specialized surgeons. Visit us online to schedule your consultation!