Just what is wrong with your shoulder?

18 December 2017

To read more about our shoulder and elbow specialists at Spire Parkway click here

The winter weather always tends to make our joints ‘feel older’ than they really are -but despite its name ‘Frozen Shoulder’ has nothing to do with the frost and snow! 

In fact you are much more likely to develop the condition while hunched in front of a computer in a warm office than yomping through snow-cover countryside, according to Mr Tom Lawrence, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Spire Parkway Hospital.

He explained: “The complex nature of the shoulder means that there is a lot that can go wrong with the joint and surrounding soft tissues leading to pain and loss of function. It is particularly prone to problems through poor posture, wear and tear, repetitive stress and acute injuries.

Here he looks at two common problems, how they develop and how they can be treated.

Frozen shoulder:  

What is it: Inflammation and thickening of the capsule lining that surrounds the shoulder joint. It usually occurs with no obvious cause but can be associated with a minor injury or after a period of immobilisation.

Symptoms: Pain is felt in the upper arm that can often lead to a lack of sleep. Stiffness and pain can make it difficult to carry out many of the simple tasks of daily living.

Treatments:Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication will reduce the pain while physiotherapy may help to control symptoms. A steroid injection into the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Keyhole surgery is considered if other treatments fail with the surgeon releasing the thick and inflamed lining to allow the shoulder to function freely.

Shoulder instability

What is it: The shoulder consists of a ball and a shallow socket surrounded by soft tissues, which includes the capsule lining the joint, ligaments, and the rotator cuff muscles.

It is a relatively loose joint to allow great flexibility in movement but this makes it vulnerable to dislocation particularly contact sports. When the shoulder dislocates it tears tissues attached to the rim of the socket and stretches the ligaments of the joint leaving a weak point around the shoulder.

Symptoms: The shoulder may start to dislocate frequently requiring multiple hospital visits for relocation. Sometimes the shoulder only slips partially out of the socket (sublux) and it may be possible to return it into position yourself.

There may be a feeling of insecurity and apprehension when the arm is in certain positions such as when the hand is raised above the head and away from the body and will almost certainly affect your ability to play certain sports.

Treatments: Physiotherapy is helpful to regain mobility and strength of the shoulder.

Surgery (arthroscopic stabilisation) may be considered after the initial episode of dislocation (particularly in high level sports people) or if the shoulder repeatedly dislocates.

Surgery is also used to treat patients whose shoulders feel unstable but do not fully dislocate. This is carried out using keyhole (arthroscopic) techniques to reattach the ligaments and labrum back to the socket to make it more stable.

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