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Conditions you may be experiencing:
Bicep Tendon Tear at Shoulder
Tendons are responsible for attaching muscle to bone. In the shoulder, various tendons work together, stabilizing joints and reinforcing the shoulder’s flexible structure. Among them, the bicep tendon connects the major arm muscle to bones in the shoulder. Through injury and overuse, this tendon can become torn, undermining shoulder strength and stability.
Cause of a Bicep Tendon Tear at Shoulder
Athletic injury and prolonged use are common causes of shoulder pain. A bicep tendon tear may occur at the shoulder or elbow, resulting from a traumatic incident sustained participating in sports, or developed over time during normal daily activities. Repetitive strain can lead to a partial tear, or the tendon may be completely severed. In some cases, a worn, fraying tendon may appear first, progressing to a partial tear, until it eventually splits in two.
Description of a Bicep Tendon Tear at Shoulder
The shoulder’s ball and socket joint is comprised of the collarbone, shoulder blade and upper arm bone. The biceps has two tendon attachments at the shoulder. The “long head” attaches just above the socket (glenoid) in the shoulder blade, while the “short head” connects to the coracoid process, a protrusion extending from the blade. The long head is more susceptible to damage, because it passes through the shoulder joint. The short head is rarely torn; so many people suffering long head injury are able to maintain shoulder function, relying on the single tendon connection. Surgery is required to restore full strength and range of motion.
Symptoms of a Bicep Tendon Tear at Shoulder
A torn bicep tendon, occurring at the shoulder, may present these symptoms:
- Sudden, sharp pain in the upper arm
- Sometimes an audible pop or snap
- Cramping of biceps muscle with strenuous use of arm
- Bruising from middle of upper arm down toward elbow
- Pain or tenderness at shoulder and elbow
- Weakness in shoulder and elbow
- Difficulty turning arm palm up or palm down
- Bulge in upper arm above elbow, with dent closer to shoulder
Shoulder joints facilitate wide range of motion, enabling various flexible movements. In a healthy shoulder, the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) moves freely against the shoulder blade (scapula), relying on the rotator cuff to hold it in proper alignment. Functioning as it should, the shoulder rotates, turns in multiple directions and helps control arm movements – particularly overhead.
Through athletic injury, repetitive stress, or degeneration, shoulder tissue can lose the ability to keep the humerus properly positioned. Recurrent shoulder instability is a chronic condition, characterized by frequent bouts of shoulder unsteadiness.
Cause of Shoulder Instability
Shoulder dislocation takes place when the upper arm bone is disrupted from its socket (glenoid), at the shoulder blade. When the shoulder dislocates, surrounding tissue is susceptible to damage, including tendon tears and injury to muscles and ligaments. Depending upon the extent of shoulder damage, the joint can become loose and unstable. Under these circumstances, the shoulder is at risk for recurring dislocation and chronic instability.
It is also possible to develop recurrent shoulder instability without sustaining dislocation. Repetitive stress on the shoulder, for instance, may result in ligaments loosening, without the joint leaving the socket. These ligaments may become stretched due to prolonged athletic activity, or the loosening may result from stressful, repetitive duties conducted on the job. Once the weakened ligaments lose their effectiveness, recurrent shoulder instability can occur.
Symptoms of Shoulder Instability
Recurrent shoulder instability may lead to one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain caused by shoulder injury
- Repeated shoulder dislocations
- Repeated instances of shoulder giving out
- Persistent sensation of shoulder feeling loose, slipping in and out of the joint, or just “hanging there”
Rotator Cuff Tear
Torn rotator cuff is a common injury among active adults, leading to pain in the shoulder. The injury affects a specialized group of muscles and tendons, the rotator cuff, which assist shoulder movement. Functioning properly, the rotator cuff helps lift and rotate your arm, but when a tear occurs, the joint weakens and becomes painful.
Cause of a Rotator Cuff Tear
A rotator cuff injury may result from a one-time traumatic event, like a fall, or build over many years of shoulder use. Sports-related tears are widespread, particularly among athletes prone to certain repetitive motions. Baseball pitchers, volleyball players, and rowing crew members, for example, overuse vital shoulder structures, sometimes leading to rotator cuff tears. And repetitive overhead motion also puts some individuals at greater risk for developing tears on the job. Plumbers, builders and electricians, for instance, experience repetitive stress while working, often leading to this type of shoulder injury.
Although acute injury can cause a tear at any time, age-related wear increases risk for developing rotator cuff problems. A minor tear may worsen over time, so timely intervention improves outcomes.
Description or a Rotator Cuff Tear
The rotator cuff attaches the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula), helping create a stable ball-and-socket joint. If any part of the cuff’s tendon tears, the ball of the humerus is no longer fully attached and secure in the joint, resulting in disability and pain.
Rotator cuff tears manifest in two distinct ways. A partial tear occurs when a tendon becomes frayed or damaged, but not fully severed. A complete/full-thickness tear splits the tendon in two – often near the point where it attaches to the humerus bone.
Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear
The following symptoms may indicate rotator cuff tear:
- Pain at rest and at night, particularly if lying on affected shoulder
- Pain when lifting and lowering arm, or with specific movements
- Weakness when lifting or rotating arm
- Crackling sensation when moving shoulder in certain positions
Joint inflammation can occur throughout the body, causing localized or widespread arthritis symptoms. In the shoulder, two distinct joints can be affected by arthritis, leading to pain and stiffness. The likelihood of developing the degenerative condition increases with age, but shoulder injury can hasten its onset. There is no cure for shoulder arthritis, but treatment and therapy help patients lead normal lives.
Causes of Shoulder Arthritis
Age is the greatest risk factor for developing osteoarthritis of the shoulder. Over time, this form of arthritis destroys the smooth cartilage found on bone surfaces. As the material deteriorates, joint surfaces become rough and the cartilage no longer facilitates fluid shoulder movement. In addition to impaired range of motion, shoulder arthritis causes swelling and pain, resulting from bones rubbing together, without healthy cartilage cushioning the contact.
Although age and wear contribute to arthritis, posttraumatic arthritis can also affect young people, following shoulder injury. A sports dislocation or fracture, for instance, increases risk for developing chronic inflammation and arthritis symptoms.
Description of Shoulder Arthritis
Arthritis can affect either of two joints comprising the shoulder. The glenohumeral joint is where the rounded top of the humerus meets the shoulder blade, or scapula. Although arthritis strikes here, the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is more commonly involved with shoulder arthritis. The AC joint is found where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the shoulder blade.
As shoulder cartilage sustains damage, arthritis pain and range of motion limitations can become severe. Co-existing shoulder problems, such as rotator cuff tears, may also contribute to arthritis. When the cuff is no longer able to hold the humerus in position, bone surface damage occurs, leading to shoulder arthritis.
Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis
Shoulder arthritis may cause these symptoms:
- Pain that is aggravated by activity, progressively worsens
- Pain may intensify with changes in weather
- Limited motion
- Difficulty lifting arm
- Clicking or snapping sound when moving shoulder
Pain at night and difficulty sleeping
The shoulder’s muscles, bones and tendons facilitate flexibility and wide range of motion. Unfortunately, this also leaves shoulder joints susceptible to various types of injury – including dislocation. Shoulder dislocation occurs when the rounded head of the upper arm bone (humerus) is partially or completely out of its socket.
Cause of Shoulder Dislocation
Shoulder dislocation can happen suddenly, without warning, resulting from a sports injury or another similar event. Complete and partial dislocations share common symptoms, both causing pain and instability in the shoulder. Because the shoulder joint turns in many directions, it can also dislocate in various ways – forward, downward, or backward. When the shoulder joint experiences anterior instability, for example, the humerus moves forward and down out of its joint.
Dislocation throws the structure of the shoulder out of alignment, so pain manifests in several distinct ways. Acute pain, resulting from the bone being out of the socket, typically relieves once the joint is restored, but ongoing discomfort is common – particularly when dislocation occurs more than once. Musculature surrounding the shoulder may spasm as a result of the injury. And tendons and nerves may also sustain tears and other damage following a significant shoulder dislocation.
Description of Shoulder Dislocation
Proper shoulder functioning relies on the rotator cuff to position the ball of the humerus correctly, enabling it to turn freely where it joins the shoulder blade (scapula). Dislocation interrupts this joint, causing pain and further complications. Subluxation refers to partial dislocation, but the upper arm bone can also be completely dislocated.
Recurring dislocation, among athletes, for instance, increases damage to the surrounding structure. Therapy and bracing may help rehabilitation following a pattern of dislocation, and surgery is sometimes recommended to repair ligaments damaged by shoulder dislocation.
Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation
Shoulder dislocation may lead to the following symptoms:
- Possible muscle spasms
- Ball pops out of the socket and back in
The shoulder’s anatomy makes it one of the body’s most versatile structures. Comprised of multiple joints, it helps control the upper arm, rotates in many directions, and facilitates wide-ranging motion. Working together, the shoulder’s bones, muscles, and tendons also enable overhead flexibility and movements such as throwing and waving. But the same structures responsible for the shoulder’s capabilities also leave it vulnerable to injury and degeneration. The rotator cuff, in particular, plays a vital role in shoulder health, but can become torn, irritated or damaged. Shoulder impingement occurs when the bones of the shoulder rub against the cuff’s soft tissue.
Cause of Shoulder Impingement
Shoulder movement assists countless everyday activities – from routine moves to high-intensity athletics. Impingement results from irritation to the rotator cuff and bursa, which can develop as the result of injury or aging. Swimmers, baseball players and other athletes prone to repetitive overhead motion may be at greater risk for developing impingement and other shoulder problems. Swelling, pain, and stiffness associated with the condition are also experienced with greater frequency by painters and others regularly working overhead.
Description of Shoulder Impingement
To function as it should, the shoulder relies on the rotator cuff to hold the upper arm bone in position, drawing it in to the shoulder blade’s socket. During certain movements, the space narrows between the shoulder’s upper bone (acromion) and the rotator cuff tendon. As the arm is raised to shoulder height, the tendon can become impinged and irritated. The bursa, a small lubricating sac positioned between the rotator cuff and acromion, may also become involved, fueling further pain and irritation. The complaint is common among active, aging individuals.
Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement
Wide-ranging symptoms may indicate shoulder impingement, including:
- Swelling and tenderness in front of shoulder
- Pain and stiffness when lifting or lowering arm
- Minor pain both with activity and at rest
- Pain radiating from front of shoulder to side of arm
- Sudden pain with lifting and reaching movements
- Pain at night
- Loss of strength and motion
- Difficulty doing activities that place arm behind back
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