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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Shoulder Problems and Injuries
Minor shoulder problems, such as sore muscles and aches and pains,
are common. Shoulder problems develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or
an injury. They can also be caused by the natural process of aging.
Your shoulder joints move every time you move your arms. To better
understand shoulder problems and injuries, you may want to review the anatomy
and function of the
shoulder. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with
three main bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula). These
bones are held together by muscles,
ligaments. The shoulder joint has the greatest
range of motion of any joint in the body. Because of
this mobility, the shoulder is more likely to be injured or cause problems. The
acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which lies over the top
of the shoulder, is also easily injured.
Shoulder problems can be
minor or serious. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, numbness, tingling,
weakness, changes in temperature or color, or changes in your range of motion.
Shoulder injuries most commonly occur during sports activities, work-related
tasks, projects around the home, or falls. Home treatment often can help
relieve minor aches and pains.
Injuries are the most common
cause of shoulder pain.
A sudden (acute) injury may occur from a
fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the shoulder, or abnormal
twisting or bending of the shoulder. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising
and swelling may develop soon after the injury. If nerves or blood vessels have
been injured or pinched during the injury, the shoulder, arm, or hand may feel
numb, tingly, weak, or cold, or it may look pale or blue. Acute injuries
You may not recall having a specific
injury, especially if symptoms began gradually or during everyday activities.
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on a joint or other
tissue, often by overdoing an activity or through repetition of an activity.
Overuse injuries include:
Overuse and acute
injuries are common causes of shoulder symptoms. Less common causes of shoulder
Treatment for a shoulder injury may include
first aid measures, physical therapy, medicine, and, in some cases, surgery.
Treatment depends on:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
After you call
911 , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2
to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Symptoms of a heart attack may
The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that
you're having a heart attack. Chest pain or pressure is the most common
symptom, but some people, especially women, may not notice it as much as other
symptoms. You may not have chest pain at all but instead have shortness of breath, nausea, numbness,
tingling, or a strange feeling in your chest or other areas.
Put direct, steady pressure on the
wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Symptoms of infection may
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Pain in children 3 years and older
Based on your answers, you need
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
With severe bleeding, any of these may
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Major trauma is any event that can
cause very serious injury, such as:
Pain in adults and older children
If a cast or splint is applied, it is
important to keep it dry and to try to move the uninjured parts of your limb as
normally as possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor
will give you instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint.
Home treatment may
help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
If your injury does
not require an evaluation by a doctor, you may be able to use home treatment to
help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness. It may take up to 6 weeks or longer
before your symptoms are gone.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
The following tips may prevent shoulder
problems or injuries.
Shoulder injuries such as bruises, burns,
fractures, cuts, or punctures may be caused by
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the
explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent
further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
If you have a shoulder problem, the following list of
questions may help you and your doctor determine how much your shoulder and arm
function has changed.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, MD
Current as ofNovember 14, 2014
Current as of:
November 14, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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