With SOS, You Don’t Have to Shoulder the Burden of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder health is a pivotal aspect of overall physical well-being, yet it is often overlooked until pain or injury arises. The shoulder is a complex joint that allows a wide range of motion to the arm, from scratching your back to throwing the perfect pitch. The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body. Your knee can’t go in so many directions, nor can your finger joints or ankle, nor can your hip. However, this flexibility also makes the shoulder susceptible to injury and strain. When pain or injury strikes the shoulder, the SOS team of experienced shoulder specialists are available to provide total orthopedic care. SOS providers will diagnose your shoulder pain and formulate a detailed plan of action moving forward to alleviate, eliminate or manage your shoulder pain.

shoulder illustration painUnderstanding the basics of shoulder health and integrating preventive and maintenance strategies into daily routines can significantly improve quality of life and athletic performance, while minimizing the risk of injury. The shoulder is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). The head of the upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in the shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid. A combination of muscles and tendons keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. These tissues are called the rotator cuff. They cover the head of the upper arm bone and attach it to the shoulder blade.

Shoulder injuries can significantly impact an individual's daily life and mobility. These injuries can range from acute traumas, such as dislocations and fractures, to overuse injuries like tendinitis and bursitis, often seen in athletes or individuals performing repetitive movements. Pain, stiffness, reduced mobility, and weakness in the shoulder are common symptoms associated with these injuries. Proper diagnosis and treatment, which may include rest, physical therapy, medication, or in severe cases, surgery, are crucial for recovery and preventing further damage.

Rotator cuff injuries are a common ailment that can significantly impact an individual's ability to perform daily activities and maintain an active lifestyle. The rotator cuff itself is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. Injuries to this area can range from mild inflammation (tendinitis) and impingement to more severe tears. Symptoms often include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder. These injuries are frequently seen in individuals who perform repetitive lifting or overhead activities, such as athletes or manual laborers, but can also occur due to aging or acute trauma.

Although many athletes are at risk for shoulder injuries due to overuse, currently there is some concern that the pitch clock added to MLB games has increased shoulder injuries among professional pitchers. Typically, 57% of baseball pitchers suffer some sort of shoulder injury each season. In 2024, out of the 166 players who began this season on an MLB team's injured list, 132 were pitchers — nearly 80%. Recently, Dr. Ryan Smart, a surgeon on SOS’ Shoulder Team, commented on ESPN Radio’s House Call, noting, “if pitchers are getting fatigued and not having a chance to rest between pitches, they will compensate. There could be an association between the injuries and pitch clock. The shoulder and elbow take all the torque when the legs and lower body are tired.” He believes if injuries continue through the season the MLB may have to reassess the use of the pitch clock.

Shoulder Replacement an Increasing Alternative

Total shoulders replacements are the fastest growing field of arthroplasty. Total Shoulder Arthroplasty involves replacement of the entire joint — the ball, or humerus, and the socket, or glenoid — with plastic and metal parts. Although some candidates for shoulder replacement are ones who suffered a fracture, more often it is the general wear and tear of the shoulder that cause arthritis which can lead to great pain and dysfunction. Shoulder replacement patients can expect to be home the same day of the procedure, although some require an overnight stay in a hospital.

Maintaining Shoulder Health

The key to maintaining healthy shoulders lies in a balanced approach that combines strength, flexibility, and proper posture. Strengthening exercises, especially for the rotator cuff muscles, play a critical role in stabilizing the shoulder joint. Focus on precision and the gradual building of strength over time. Equally important is flexibility, which can be enhanced through stretching and mobility exercises. This not only aids in preventing injuries but also ensures optimal performance of the shoulder joint in various activities.

Moreover, adopting proper posture and ergonomic practices, especially for those who spend long hours at a desk or in front of a computer, is crucial in preventing shoulder pain and strain. Simple adjustments, such as ensuring the computer screen is at eye level, using an ergonomic chair, and taking regular breaks to stretch, can have a profound impact. Additionally, being mindful of shoulder positioning during physical activities and avoiding repetitive motions that can overburden the shoulder are vital preventative measures.

For individuals experiencing shoulder pain or those recovering from an injury, consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options is essential. From arthritis to tendonitis to acute injuries, SOS providers are experts in various treatments and procedures, both surgical and non-surgical, to alleviate shoulder pain and restore function. With the right approach, maintaining healthy shoulders is an achievable goal that can lead to improved overall health and well-being.