Acute Shoulder Injuries

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.

Symptoms are:

  • Sudden shoulder pain, potentially with a tearing sensation
  • Possible pain radiating down the arm

The severity of this strain varies.

Read more on Rotator cuff strain

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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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.

Read more on a Dislocated shoulder

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.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • 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.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe pain and swelling
  • Initial pain radiating throughout the shoulder
  • Later localized pain at the shoulder top

Read more on AC joint sprain

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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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)

Clavicle fracture

A clavicle fracture, commonly due to a fall, causes severe collarbone pain. If suspected, seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms include:

  • Intense collarbone pain
  • Potential swelling
  • Visible bony deformity

Shoulder sprain

A shoulder sprain, involving damage to the shoulder ligaments or capsule, presents varying symptoms based on severity.

These include:

  • Frontal shoulder pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness upon touch
  • Pain during movement

Deltoid muscle strain/contusion

Contusions, typically from direct impacts, mainly affect the exposed deltoid muscle.

Symptoms include:

  • 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.

Symptoms include:

  • 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
  • Swelling
  • Pain during movement

Scapula Fracture

A scapula fracture, constituting only 1% of all fractures, typically results from direct blows or car accidents.

Symptoms encompass:

  • Severe pain in the shoulder’s back
  • Arm movement difficulty

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