The shoulder is made up of three bones - the collarbone, the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone - as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. The spaces between the bones of the shoulder make up the shoulder joints.
The shoulder must be flexible for the wide range of motion required in the arms and hands and also strong enough to allow for actions such as lifting, pushing and pulling. The compromise between these two functions results in a large number of shoulder problems such as shoulder dislocation, shoulder subluxation, shoulder separation and frozen shoulder. Some conditions will resolve with minimal should injury treatment and others will require shoulder surgery.
The shoulder is the most movable joint in the body. However, it is an unstable joint because of its broad range of motion. It injures easily because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. To remain stable, the shoulder is tethered by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Some shoulder problems are caused by disruption of these soft tissues from shoulder injuries or from overuse or underuse of the shoulder. Other problems are caused by tissue degeneration.
Shoulder pain may be localized or radiate to areas around the shoulder and down the arm. Diseases that involve the gallbladder, liver, heart, or cervical spine also may generate pain that travels along nerves to the shoulder. Pain in the region of the shoulder blade nearly always has its origin in the neck.
When you should see an orthopedic shoulder surgeon
If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, asking these questions will help you decide on seeing a specialist:
- Is your shoulder stiff?
- Does it feel like your shoulder could pop out or slide out of the socket?
- Do you lack the strength in your shoulder to carry out your daily activities?
Answering “yes” to the above questions means you should likely make an appointment so that the severity of the problem can be determined by shoulder injury doctor.
Depending on the nature of the problem, nonsurgical methods of treatment often are recommended before surgery. However, in some instances, delaying the surgical repair of a shoulder can increase the likelihood that the problem will be more difficult to treat later. Early, correct diagnosis and treatment of shoulder problems can make a significant difference in the long run.