Acute shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears, dislocations, or sprains, occur suddenly due to falls or direct impacts. In the event of severe pain or uncertainty, immediately consult a medical professional.
Rotator cuff tear
A rotator cuff strain, common in throwing and racket sports, involves tearing in one of the four shoulder muscles.
- Sudden shoulder pain, potentially with a tearing sensation
- Possible pain radiating down the arm
The severity of this strain varies.
Dislocated shoulder (anterior)
A dislocated shoulder is a severe, painful condition where the upper arm bone detaches from the shoulder joint, typically forward, during upward and outward arm movement.
- Intense pain
- Quick swelling around the joint
- Deformed or ‘dropped’ shoulder appearance
If shoulder dislocation is suspected, seek immediate medical help without attempting to realign it, which may cause permanent injury.
Dislocated shoulder (posterior)
A posterior shoulder dislocation, where the upper arm bone moves backwards out of the socket, is relatively rare compared to anterior dislocations. Causes include contact sports, car accidents, and falls.
- Severe pain
- Complete loss of function
AC joint separation
An AC joint separation, or sprain, results from a tear in the ligament connecting the acromion and clavicle bones, often caused by falling onto an outstretched arm.
- Severe pain and swelling
- Initial pain radiating throughout the shoulder
- Later localized pain at the shoulder top
Long head of biceps rupture
A biceps tendon rupture, more common in older athletes, involves a tear or strain in the tendon connecting the biceps muscle to the shoulder.
- Sudden sharp pain in the front of the upper arm or shoulder
- Visible swelling at the front of the shoulder joint
- Pain when contracting the biceps muscle against resistance
- Pain during resisted shoulder flexion (straight arm raise)
A clavicle fracture, commonly due to a fall, causes severe collarbone pain. If suspected, seek immediate medical attention.
- Intense collarbone pain
- Potential swelling
- Visible bony deformity
A shoulder sprain, involving damage to the shoulder ligaments or capsule, presents varying symptoms based on severity.
- Frontal shoulder pain
- Tenderness upon touch
- Pain during movement
Deltoid muscle strain/contusion
Contusions, typically from direct impacts, mainly affect the exposed deltoid muscle.
- Pain post-impact
- Swelling and subsequent bruising
- Difficulty in arm lifting
- Tender ‘dead’ arm feeling
Pectoralis major tendon strain
A rare acute shoulder injury is the pectoralis major strain or rupture, typically due to high-stress activities like weight training.
- Front-of-shoulder pain
- Swelling at the injury site
Fracture of the Neck of the Humerus
A humerus neck fracture often results from a fall onto an outstretched hand or a shoulder impact. Predominantly seen in young adults, adolescents, and elderly individuals.
This injury requires:
- Wearing a sling for healing
- Rehabilitation exercises post-healing
Proximal Humerus Growth Plate Fracture
A proximal humerus growth plate fracture in children results from a high-impact event, like a fall.
The symptoms include:
- Severe upper arm pain
- Pain during movement
A scapula fracture, constituting only 1% of all fractures, typically results from direct blows or car accidents.
- Severe pain in the shoulder’s back
- Arm movement difficulty