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This guide provides common shoulder injuries and the pain associated with them. We hope you enjoy the content of this page and find what you’re looking for.

This guide provides common shoulder injuries and the pain associated with them. We hope you enjoy the content of this page and find what you’re looking for.

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

The muscles at the front of the upper part of the arm comprises the bicep. The bicep muscle is essential in the bending movement of the elbow and the rotation of the arm. Stability is another important function of the bicep.

The bicep tendons primary function is attaching the bicep muscle to the bones to facilitate movement in the shoulder and the elbow. If the bicep tendon tears at the shoulder, the patient may lose some ability to turn the arm from palm up to palm down and vice versa. Some strength in that extremity may also be lost.

While some functionality of the extremity may be lost, the person may still be able to perform some tasks with limited mobility and some pain if the injury is not treated.

Bicep tendon tears can be partial, where the tendon is not completely severed, or complete, where the tendon is torn into two parts. The long head of the biceps tendon is the most vulnerable and is the most likely to be injured. Once the biceps tendon is torn, it’s best to see a physician immediately as this injury can lead to damage of other parts of the shoulder, such as the rotator cuff tendon.

Injury, such as falling on the arm, overextending the tendon and overuse are the most common causes of this injury. Risk of injury of this muscle increases with age, overuse, heavy overhead activity, smoking, and corticosteroid medications.

Symptoms of Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

- Sudden or sharp pain in the upper arm
An audible pop
Cramping as a result of strenuous use
Bruising from the shoulder to the elbow
Pain or tenderness at the shoulder
Difficulty rotating the palm up or down
General weakness in the region
A bulge in the upper arm and/or a dent close to the shoulder, because the torn tendon cannot keep the muscle tight.

Treatment of Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

X-Rays and Magnetic Resonance Imaging are used to assess the damage and make a diagnosis.

Both non surgical and surgical options are available.

Non Surgical of Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

Ice the affected region for 20 minutes intervals, several times a day to reduce swelling is the first mode of treatment.

Administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling: ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen.

Rest and discontinue the activity for a period of time.

Physical therapy entails strengthening and stretching exercises to restore mobility, flexibility, and strengthen the area.

Surgical Treatment is rarely needed but is available for extreme injuries.

Chronic Shoulder Instability

Chronic shoulder instability is characterized by repeated dislocation of the upper arm bone from the shoulder socket. This occurs form injury or overuse. The first occurrence of the dislocation makes it more vulnerable to repeated episodes.

Subluxation is a partial dislocation occurring when the ball of the upper arm is partially out of the socket. Complete dislocation occurs when the ball is completely removed from the socket.

There are three main causes of this injury: shoulder dislocation, repetitive strain (overuse), and multidirectional instability.

Shoulder Dislocation

Severe injury or trauma is often the initial cause of shoulder dislocation. When the humerus dislocates, the glenoid (socket bone) and the anterior ligaments of the shoulder are often damaged. This is commonly coined the Bankart lesion.

Repetitive Strain

Many patients never experience dislocation and simply have loose ligaments in the shoulder. This may be a result of their normal anatomy or it can be indicative of repetitive overhead motion. Loose ligaments decrease the ability to maintain shoulder stability, thus weakening the shoulder rendering it unstable.

Multidirectional Instability

Though uncommon and infrequent, a small number of patients experience an shoulder disability without a history of injury or repetitive strain. In this instance, the shoulder may feel loose and dislocate in multiple directions. The ball may dislocate from the shoulder from the front, back or bottom of the shoulder. These patients typically have a natural inclination towards loose ligaments and may be “double-jointed”.

Symptoms of Chronic Shoulder Instability

Repeated shoulder dislocations
Documented instances of an inoperable shoulder
Persistent loose shoulder sensation, slipping in and out of joint

Treatment of Chronic Shoulder Instability

Non surgical options are first considered in the treatment of chronic shoulder instability. Surgical options will be explored if this option is not effective. Consult a physician for a treatment plan.

Non surgical options include: activity modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy.

Rest and discontinue the activity for a period of time.

Administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling: ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen.

Physical therapy entails strengthening and stretching exercises to restore mobility, flexibility, and strengthen the area. Often the therapist will design an at home regimen to follow.

Surgical Options include: Arthroscopy, open surgery, and accompanying rehabilitation after the surgery.

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure and can be completed in a day. The tissues in the shoulder are repaired using microscopic instruments and small incisions. The surgeons uses microscopic cameras to locate and repair the injury.

Open surgery is for those who have a more severe or an injury that is not reachable through minimal invasive surgery. A larger incision is made in this instance and the surgery is performed under direct visualization.

Always follow the physicians order for the rehabilitation plan in order to restore the ligaments to full mobility.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff tear is the most common shoulder injury and cause of pain and injury among adults. Most tears occur in the supraspinatus muscle, one of the four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff; however, other parts of the rotator cuff may be damaged. This particular muscle, along with the other 3 muscles, the infraspinatus, subscapularis, and the teres minor, are attached to the scapula (shoulder blade) through a single tendon unit. The unit is attached on the side and front of the shoulder on the greater tuberosity of the humerus.

Two main causes of the rotator cuff tears occur from a single injury, such as a fall or repetitive motion or overuse. Often rotator cuff tears occur synonymously with another shoulder injury such as dislocations or a bone fracture. Most tears however are a result of overuse and are typically present in athletic patients involved in sports such as swimming, tennis, baseball, weightlifting, or other activity involving an overhead repetitive motion.

Age may also play a factor.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears

Pain when lifting the arm or throwing or serving a ball
Pain while sleeping or at rest
Radiating pain from the shoulder
Sudden pain when reaching
Atrophy of the shoulder muscles
Weakness in lifting
Crepitus or crackling sensation during shoulder movement

Treatment of Rotator Cuff Tears

Non surgical treatment options of rotator cuff tears:

Rest and Limited overhead activity
Use of a sling
Anti-inflammatory medication
Steroid injections, such as Cortisone
Strengthening exercises and physical therapy

Surgical Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Tears

A physician will determine the type of surgery deemed necessary depending upon the size and location of the tear. A partial tear may require a procedure known as “debridement”. This is a trimming or smoothing procedure of the affected tendon.

A complete tear is repaired by suturing the tendon together. If the tendon is removed from the humerus, the physician will reconnect it directly to the bone. Most surgical repairs can be done on an outpatient basis.

In some instances, the surgeon may need to remove part of the scapula, the acromion, as a part of the procedure. The acromion is often thought to cause impingement on the tendon and be the cause of tearing.

Other Injuries

Calcific Tendonitis

This injury is a result of calcium deposits on the rotator cuff tendons of the shoulder. The deposits could trigger acute attacks of pain and inflammation.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, may often occur without a known cause or trigger. Pain from an existing injury may limit shoulder movement and aid in the onset of frozen shoulder. As the shoulder heals scar tissue may cause the surfaces of the shoulder joint to stick together and “freeze” the shoulder.


This condition occurs as a result of inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a sac of fluid that aids in the reduction of friction between moving parts of a joint. Bursitis may be caused by overuse of the shoulder and could be accompanied by tendonitis. Treatment is the same for both conditions.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

An impingement occurs when compression over the shoulder joint presses against surround anatomic structures. Specifically, impingement is a result of the front edge of the shoulder blade or acromion, impinges upon the surface of the rotator cuff. This type of injury limits mobility and causes uncomfortable pain.


A shoulder that develops osteoarthritis usually has been previously injured. Individuals who develop rotator cuff tendonitis or shoulder bursitis often mistake it for arthritis as the symptoms are similar.

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