Shoulder Injuries & Disorders

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Your shoulder joint is composed of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). Your shoulders are the most movable joints in your body. They can also be unstable because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. To remain in a stable or normal position, the shoulder must be anchored by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Because the shoulder can be unstable, it is the site of many common problems. They include sprains, strains, dislocations, separations, tendinitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuffs, frozen shoulder, fractures and arthritis.

Usually shoulder problems are treated with RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Other treatments include exercise, medicines to reduce pain and swelling, and surgery if other treatments don't work.

Rehabilitation plays a vital role in getting you back to your daily activities. A physical therapy program will help you regain shoulder strength and motion. 

  • Immobilization:
    After surgery, therapy progresses in stages. At first, the repair needs to be protected while the tendon heals. To keep your arm from moving, you will most likely use a sling and avoid using your arm for the first 4 to 6 weeks. How long you require a sling depends upon the severity of your injury.

  • Passive Exercise:
    Even though your tear has been repaired, the muscles around your arm remain weak. Once your surgeon decides it is safe for you to move your arm and shoulder, a therapist will help you with passive exercises to improve range of motion in your shoulder. With passive exercise, your therapist supports your arm and moves it in different positions. In most cases, passive exercise is begun within the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.

  • Active Exercise:
    After 4 to 6 weeks, you will progress to doing active exercises without the help of your therapist. Moving your muscles on your own will gradually increase your strength and improve your arm control. At 8 to 12 weeks, your therapist will start you on a strengthening exercise program.

Expect a complete recovery to take several months. Most patients have a functional range of motion and adequate strength by 4 to 6 months after surgery. Although it is a slow process, your commitment to rehabilitation is key to a successful outcome.