Shoulder Strain

What A Shoulder Strain Can Involve And How To Treat It


A shoulder strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon in the shoulder, as opposed to a shoulder sprain, where it’s the ligaments that are involved.  If you look at the anatomy of the shoulder, you’ll realize that the shoulder joint allows for a tremendous range of motion, including rotation, extension, flexion, adduction, and abduction. The shoulder joint is in fact our body’s most mobile joint. Because of the anatomical features involved in allowing this mobility, the shoulder joint is inherently unstable, which is one reason why dislocated shoulders are among the more common shoulder injuries. In addition, the end of the upper arm bone is a bit larger than the glenoid socket, the socket it is supposed to fit in. A rim of soft fibrous tissue, called the labrum, helps keep the upper arm bone in place in this socket. The tendons, ligaments, and muscles associated with what we call the rotator cuff, together with the labrum, provide the shoulder joint with the stability it requires.

What this wide range of motion means to us if we should suffer a shoulder strain, is that pain may be experienced when we move our arm or shoulder in a certain way, or it may be experienced no matter how we move our arm or shoulder. It all depends upon which muscles or tendons are involved, and also of course on the extent of the injury to those muscles or tendons.


Two Principal Causes – Injury And Overuse


A shoulder strain, like a shoulder sprain, can be caused by a blow to the shoulder, falling on the shoulder, or an unnatural twisting of the shoulder. A strain however is more often apt to occur due to overuse or repetitive motion. In the case of overuse, the best remedy is to back off from whatever motion is causing the problem, if the activity requiring that motion is known. Applying ice can sometimes help to treat a mild strain, but if the strain is severe, such that a muscle or tendon has been torn, medical help will be necessary. In extreme cases, where a muscle or a tendon has completely ruptured, surgery will be required, and recovery can often take a significant amount of time.

Why A Mild Strain Should Be Treated


A shoulder strain does not always involve damage to, or tearing of, a muscle or a tendon, but sometimes it is inflammation rather than an injury that is the source of the problem. In most cases, it is one of the shoulder muscles that is inflamed. While some rotator cuff injuries require surgery, especially when rotator cuff ligaments are involved, a rotator cuff strain, in which muscles are inflamed, is a one of the more common types of shoulder injury. An inflamed muscle, or an inflamed tendon for that matter, may seem to be of lesser concern than a torn muscle or tendon. If left untreated however, a rotator cuff tear could be the end result. A tear can occur when a muscle or tendon is inflamed, since if swelling is present, it can cause the rotator cuff to be squeezed up against the shoulder blade. This causes even greater wear and tear, and eventually leads to a tearing of tissues.  Muscles or tendons that are being overworked, have become inflamed, or are otherwise subject to abuse, need relief and possibly treatment to keep worse things from happening.


The pain that is experienced when someone suffers this type of a strain is quite often the due to    swelling, which can make almost any movement in the cavity of the shoulder joint both difficult and uncomfortable. If the strain is a bad one, in other words a muscle or tendon has suffered a tear, the pain will usually be sudden and sharp. If the strain is milder, and the result of overuse, there may be very little pain felt at first, but it will tend to progressively get worse, and continue to do so until the shoulder is given a rest. While the best treatment for a strain due to overuse is rest, it is always advisable to see a doctor, as it is sometimes impossible to tell from the pain whether the injury is a mild one or involves a tear.

Why Exercising The Shoulder Is Important


Whatever course of treatment is prescribed, it’s best to wait until the pain has completely subsided before commencing with a set of shoulder strain exercises. Following an exercise regimen is very important, since strengthening the shoulder muscles makes a repetition of the injury that was experienced less likely. Exercising the shoulder also promotes healing. These exercises primarily consist of moving the arm in various directions against pressure, pressure which is increased in intensity over time. The pressure will initially need to be very gentle at first, and if pain is experienced, one needs to back off. With time, the person who has suffered the shoulder problem will be able to determine just how much pressure to apply to the arm or shoulder without causing pain, and will find that this pressure can be increased with time, until the shoulder is back to normal.