Each year, approximately 4 million people visit the doctor for a rotator cuff injury, and about 3 million more make the call for other types of shoulder damage.

Following are the most common shoulder injuries and a brief description of how they’re treated.

Rotator cuff

The muscles and tendons near the top of your shoulder are called your rotator cuff. The cuff holds your shoulder bones together by keeping the ball at the top of your arm in its socket.  

Rotator cuff issues are the most common shoulder injuries. If you’re a swimming, tennis, or baseball athlete, you’re especially prone to rotator cuff injury from overuse. Physically demanding jobs such as hanging drywall or painting can cause rotator cuff injuries too because you’re constantly using those shoulder muscles.

If you’re a side sleeper, it’s difficult to sleep with a rotator cuff injury — especially a full tear. Your shoulder is painful and weak, and you can’t reach overhead.

Many rotator cuff injuries simply require rest and ice. If the strain is more severe, your physician prescribes physical therapy and if necessary, a cortisone injection. On the other hand, if you have a full rotator cuff tear, you’ll need surgery. The surgery requires a few months’ recovery time.  

Shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tendinitis

If you have rotator cuff tendinitis, lifting your arms to shoulder height shrinks the area between the bone on the top of your shoulder blade (the acromion) and rotator cuff. This creates friction with a tendon impinging on it — eventually causing pain. Your range of motion becomes very limited.

Surgery is a last resort. You’ll need to rest and take pain relievers. Dr. Dalal decides whether you need a steroid injection or physical therapy. Full recovery is usually slow, taking weeks or even months.

If surgery is eventually required, Dr. Dalal performs minimally invasive shoulder arthroscopy and examines the inside of your shoulder with a tiny camera. He may decide to take out part of the acromion to relieve your pain.  

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder describes the condition technically known as adhesive capsulitis. The capsule, or tissue covering your shoulder joint, becomes thick and inflamed. Mild stiffness and soreness gradually become intense. Your shoulder eventually can “freeze” in place so that you can barely move it. Frozen shoulder can last 1-2 years. You gradually regain range of motion during the healing process.

Nonsurgical treatment of frozen shoulder is somewhat similar to treatment for shoulder arthritis. Pain relievers, injections, and physical therapy are standard treatments.

If physical therapy is of limited value, Dr. Dalal might recommend shoulder arthroscopy to release the thick band of tissue so the joint can move again. Another option is gentle manipulation of the capsule and scar tissue while you’re under anesthesia. They should begin to stretch, which aids your range of motion.

Dislocated shoulder/shoulder instability

You’ll know if you’ve dislocated your shoulder; the evidence is your out-of-joint arm and accompanying intense pain. If you’ve dislocated your shoulder, you may also have torn the labrum, or lining between the ball and socket. Shoulder dislocations can occur from sports injuries, accidents, or a fall.

A shoulder dislocation is an emergency. Dr. Dalal makes time in his schedule to treat these types of situations. He can place the ball of your upper arm back in the shoulder socket. Once your arm is in the socket again, your pain should stop right away.

If you’ve experienced shoulder dislocation, you may be more prone to repeat occurrences. If that’s the case, Dr. Dalal may decide on arthroscopic surgery. The result creates the stability you need so you won’t keep injuring yourself.

Shoulder arthritis

As you age, you may develop osteoarthritis in your shoulder, especially if you’ve played sports or performed physical work for a living. If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, the protective cartilage covering your shoulder bones and keeping them apart wears out. Then the bones rub against each other every time you move, causing chronic pain and limiting your range of motion.

Mild cases of shoulder arthritis can be treated with rest, pain medication, cortisone injections, and physical therapy. If you have a moderate amount of arthritis, Dr. Dalal may decide to perform shoulder arthroscopy. This minimally invasive surgery shaves off dead tissue, repairs torn tissue, and releases any thick bands of tissue called adhesions that have been limiting your movement.

If the degeneration is very severe and totally bone on bone, Dr. Dalal performs arthroplasty, or shoulder joint replacement. Just as in a hip replacement, he replaces the ball and socket joint with an artificial joint — only this time it’s the one in your shoulder.


Call or book an appointment online with Dr. Dalal at Tri-State Orthopaedics and Robotic Surgery for outstanding care of musculoskeletal conditions.   

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