Understanding & Treating Your Shoulder Injuries

Orthopedic Shoulder Care at The Medical Center of Aurora 

Shoulders are the most commonly injured joints in the body. However, because shoulders don’t affect mobility, people tend to put off having shoulder injuries treated by an orthopedic specialist. The earlier a shoulder injury is addressed, the easier it is to treat it with therapy and anti-inflammation medications.

Make an appointment to get your shoulder seen now. Call 303-873-0630.

Continuing to manage shoulder pain for a long-time without addressing the cause of the problem can lead to greater complications long-term. Minimally invasive shoulder surgery as well as other non surgical options are available to treat shoulder injuries. 

Orthopedic Shoulder Conditions

Arthritis of the Shoulder

Arthritis of the shoulder is joint inflammation of the shoulder and can cause discomfort, pain, and decreased mobility in the shoulder. Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease. 

Arthritis is treated with the goal of relieving pain, maintaining mobility and function, and improving quality of life. Treatment can include lifestyle changes and anti-inflammatory or pain reduction medication. Depending on the progression of the arthritis and the health of the patient, surgery may be a suitable option to increase mobility. If the patient is suffering from progressive rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis surgery may be recommended. Or in more severe cases, a total or partial should replacement may be recommended.

More about arthritis 

Clavicle Fracture (broken collarbone)

A clavicle fracture is a break in the clavicle bone (also called the collarbone). It connects the sternum (breastplate) to the shoulder. Symptoms of a clavicle fracture include severe pain, sagging shoulder, severe bruising, inability to lift the arm because of pain and a lump or visible deformity over the fracture site. 

Most clavicle fractures can be treated either with a figure eight strap, which is wrapped around the body and the shoulders, or with the arm in a sling. These devices help hold the shoulder in place while the clavicle heals. An orthopedic surgeon may insert pins or a plate and screws in the bone to hold the broken collarbone in place while it heals. It may take up to ten weeks for the broken clavicle bone to heal, followed by specific exercises prescribed by a physical therapist to strengthen the shoulder and increase range of motion.

More about clavicle fractures

Dislocated Shoulder

If you or a loved one has a dislocated shoulder, seek medical care right away. Do not try to put the shoulder bones back into place. Immobilize the shoulder as best as possible, take over the counter pain medications to decrease pain and swelling while in the process of seeking medical attention. Symptoms of a dislocated shoulder include intense pain in the shoulder, tenderness when the shoulder is touched, swelling, bruising, inability to move or lift the shoulder, or a deformed shoulder. 

A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) pops out of the shallow shoulder socket. This can happen when a strong force pulls the shoulder upward or outward, or from an extreme external rotation of the humerus. In a partial dislocation, the head of the humerus slips out of the socket momentarily and then snaps back into place. In a full shoulder dislocation, the head of the humerus comes completely out of the socket and does not pop back into place on its own. 

Shoulder dislocation often happens in contact sports or sports where the athlete may fall on the shoulder or have greater impact on the shoulder such as volleyball, skiing, football, soccer, hockey and rock climbing. 

Treatment of a shoulder dislocation includes moving the shoulder back into the joint socket by applying traction to your arm by a physician. After the procedure, wearing a sling or shoulder immobilizer will be necessary to keep the shoulder from moving. The shoulder is generally immobilized for about 4 weeks, and full recovery takes several months. Shoulder surgery is rarely needed for a first shoulder dislocation. It is often needed for a shoulder that dislocates repeatedly.

More about shoulder dislocation

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a tightening of the tissue around the shoulder joint. It results in a loss of movement and pain at the shoulder joint. This condition may get worse over time. After a period of time, the shoulder may also improve spontaneously. This improvement is called thawing. The freezing to thawing process can take one to three years. 

Treatment for frozen shoulder focuses on relieving pain and restoring function and range of motion to the shoulder. Non-surgical treatment options include pain relief with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injections, muscle relaxants, heating and ice and physical therapy. 

Its not understood what causes frozen therapy, however women are more likely to develop frozen therapy than men, those with diabetes, heart disease and thyroid disease are at greater risk, and those recovering from a stroke or mastectomy surgery when shoulder movement is limited. 

More about frozen shoulder concerns 

Labral Tear

A shoulder labral tear is tear of the labrum. The labrum is the tissue that helps hold the end of the arm bone, known as the humerus, in place. Typically those who have a shoulder labral tear have an additional injury such as a tear in the rotator cuff, making the labral tear often hard to diagnose. A Labral tear happens when there is a fall on an outstretched arm or shoulder. A Labral tear can also happen if there is a repetitive overhead motion injury such as throwing basketballs. 

Symptoms of a Labral tear include pain when you move your arm over your head or through a ball, weakness or instability in the shoulder, generalized aching pain in the shoulder, popping or catching in the shoulder. 

Labral tears are treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), rest, ice and physical therapy. If there is no improvement after several weeks of non surgical treatment, minimally invasive shoulder surgery is considered. Surgery to repair a labral tear is called shoulder arthroscopy. 

See an image of a labral tear

Rotator Cuff Injury

Symptoms of a rotator cuff injury can include recurrent or constant pain, shoulder muscle weakness, especially when lifting the arm, and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. With a rotator cuff injury, sleep will be disturbed, especially when lying on the effected shoulder, combing the hair and reaching behind the back will be painful and difficult. 

Individuals at risk for rotator cuff injuries often perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports. These include painters, carpenters, baseball, basketball and tennis players. 

Surgery is typically not required to heal a rotator cuff injury. Anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy can provide the treatment necessary to heal a rotator cuff injury. If these approaches are unsuccessful, minimally invasive surgical options include acromioplasty and arthroscopy. Depending on the extent of your injury, full recovery can take anywhere from two to six months. 

Learn about rotator cuff injuries

Shoulder Instability (chronic or acute)

Once you have dislocated your shoulder one time, it is often common to dislocate it again. Additionally, if you have injured your shoulder, the shoulder is prone to additional injuries. The weaknesses, pain and numbness which accompanies repetitive injuries is known as shoulder instability. 

Non-surgical treatments for shoulder instability can include rest and physical therapy, ice to reduce inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs and medications for pain relief. 

Minimally invasive surgical procedures, such as arthroscopy, may be used to determine the cause of and treat the shoulder instability. 

Learn more about shoulder instability

Shoulder Replacement Surgery 

Shoulder replacement is a serious surgery. Most candidates for should replacement surgery suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms which indicate the need for a shoulder replacement include moderate pain which may increase to severe pain with activity, pain which affects the ability to sleep, inability to perform daily functions, insufficient pain relief from non-surgical treatment options including physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections. 

Shoulder replacement surgery replaces a worn, painful shoulder joint with a new, functional joint made from metal and plastic. The surgery relieves the debilitating shoulder joint pain that interferes with daily life.

More about shoulder replacement surgery

Shoulder Sprain

A shoulder sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that stabilize the shoulder. Symptoms of a shoulder sprain include feeling a tear or pop in the shoulder joint followed by pain, swelling, and bruising. The shoulder joint will be red in the sprain area, heat/warmth will radiate from the shoulder and the shoulder will be stiff. 

Shoulder sprains may be caused by falling on an outstretched arm, forced twisting of the arm, a blow to the shoulder or overuse or repetitive movement of the shoulder joint. 

As with most sprains, a shoulder sprain can be healed without surgery. Rest, ice, stabilization (through the use of a sling) and pain relief medications should help with the recovery process. Physical therapy may be required to support the healing process. If the pain intensifies or does not decrease after several weeks, contact an orthopedic specialist.

More information about shoulder sprains 

Don’t let the pain continue. Make an appointment to get your shoulder seen now. Call 303-873-0630

Find Out More About the Orthopedic Shoulder Specialists at The Medical Center of Aurora 

The orthopedic shoulder specialists at The Medical Center of Aurora take great care of shoulder injuries. Collaborative medical teams, including the best Denver orthopedic surgeons, certified nurses, radiologists and physical therapists, all work together for the benefit of creating an individualized care plan for each patient.

Our high quality care and low infection rates are just a few reasons why our patients heal faster and get back to living their lives as quickly as possible. With individualized care plans, the goal of each medical team is to create comprehensive, specialized care for each patient. 

For the comfort of our patients, our orthopedic shoulder surgeons work in newly renovated operating rooms with sophisticated imaging equipment and the latest in laser technology to achieve the best possible surgical outcomes.