Shoulders: Orthopedic Injuries, Issues, & Treatment Options

Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Sports Medicine

Shoulder Treatments

The shoulder is the most versatile and mobile joint of the human body. Specific types of injuries can cause pain, dysfunction, inflammation, instability or arthritis. The specialists at Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Sports Medicine in St. Louis provide treatment for common shoulder conditions. 

All shoulder pain and potential injuries require a proper diagnosis for an effective treatment plan. If you suspect you may have a particular shoulder injury, contact us for a comprehensive exam. Should your condition require surgical repair, we are equipped to perform a variety of shoulder surgery options.

AC Joint Separation

Injury to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, located where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the highest point of the shoulder blade (acromion). Commonly caused by falling directly onto the shoulder, injuring or tearing the stabilizing ligaments. Treatment will depend on severity of injury.



Joint damage that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and/or decreased range of motion to one or more joints. Osteoarthritis is most common and is a result of wear-and-tear damage to the joint’s cartilage, causing pain and restricted movement. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the membrane enclosing the joints, leading to cartilage and bone damage. Treatment will depend on the type of arthritis you have, but all aim to lessen symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

Bankart/Labral Tear of the Shoulder

This tear is specific to the cartilage cuff, called the labrum. The labrum creates a deeper socket for the ball of the arm to move, allowing full range of motion. A Bankart tear is typically caused by a shoulder dislocation and could lead to instability, repeat dislocations, an aching in the shoulder or upper arm, or a sensation of catching in the shoulder joint. Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the tear.

Bicep Injuries

Biceps are at risk of various injuries at the shoulder joint. Bicep tendinitis creates inflammation or irritation of the upper tendon, leading to pain in the front of the shoulder and weakness. In some cases, the tendon can tear, causing a loss of strength in the arm and pain when the palm is forcefully turned up or down. There are various treatment options for these injuries and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Shoulder Instability

Chronic shoulder instability occurs as a result of an injury or overuse. If the shoulder has been dislocated previously, the odds of it happening again are increased and the joint itself becomes unstable. Nonsurgical options will be tried first, but if found unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended.

Frozen Shoulder

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, it is essentially just as it sounds – pain and stiffness within the shoulder joint, eventually becoming very hard to move at all. The condition will generally worsen before recovery, which can take up to 3 years. The best treatment recommendation is physical therapy to help restore shoulder flexibility.

Rotator Cuff Tear

This injury is one of the most common causes of pain and disability in adults. The tear can either be partial or complete and could be caused by injury or use over time. When the rotator cuff is torn, the shoulder will be weakened, causing normal daily activities to become painful, like brushing your hair or getting dressed. Treatment will depend on age, activity level, overall health, and the type of tear.

Shoulder Separation / Dislocation

This injury is specific to the ligaments holding your collarbone (clavicle) to the shoulder blade. In mild case, the ligaments may just be stretched, but if severe, could mean it is torn. Most cases will not require surgery, but treatment options should be discussed with a physician if pain and tenderness near the end of the collarbone persist.


When raising the arm to shoulder height, the space between the shoulder blade and rotator cuff naturally narrows. Shoulder impingement occurs when the shoulder blade (acromion) rubs or “impinges” upon the tendon and the bursa, resulting in irritation and pain. Proper treatment will be determined by a physician, but will most likely be nonsurgical.


Shoulder tendinitis is inflammation specific to the rotator cuff or biceps tendon. This condition can range from mild to severe, causing an inability to hold the arm in certain positions and pain or tenderness in the shoulder. Treatment options vary from medication and therapy to surgery depending upon severity and other factors.

Surgeries Available at Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Sports Medicine Include:

  • Shoulder Arthroscopy
  • SLAP Lesion Repair
  • Rotator Cuff Repair
  • Subacromial Decompression
  • Distal Clavicle Resection
  • Labral Repair
  • Capsulorrhaphy
  • Biceps Tendon Repair
  • Fracture Fixation
  • Total Shoulder Replacement
  • Superior Capsular Reconstruction

Shoulder Injuries FAQs

What are the most common shoulder injuries?

While there are various injuries that can occur, the most common include shoulder instability, rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, overuse and strain injuries, and arthritis. Each have varying levels of severity and will require a unique treatment plan based on the patient’s case.

What does it feel like when you have a torn rotator cuff?

There may be pain when trying to sleep on the affected side, weakness in the arm, and difficulty performing routine activities such as combing your hair or reaching behind your back. If the tear occurs with an injury, you may experience acute pain, a snapping sensation, and immediate weakness of the arm.

What happens if a torn rotator cuff goes untreated?

If left untreated, a rotator cuff tear can severely restrict function and range of motion. The tears can also increase over time, causing partial rotator cuff tears to progress to total tears.

How do I know if I have a shoulder injury?

If you are unable to move your arm normally, are experiencing shoulder stiffness or pain, instability, or loss of strength, you may have a shoulder injury. Because there are many different types of shoulder injuries, a proper diagnosis will require evaluation by an orthopedic doctor. If your shoulder appears deformed, is unusable, has intense pain, sudden swelling, or is accompanied by arm or hand weakness or numbness, see a physician right away.

How can I prevent a shoulder injury?

Properly warming up before a workout, staying physically active, listening to your body, practicing safe lifting techniques, and not straining to reach for things can help prevent unnecessary shoulder injury. Unfortunately, not all shoulder injuries can be prevented but seeking medical treatment early when there is a potential problem can help it from becoming worse.

Can a shoulder injury affect other parts of the body, like the hand, neck, elbow, or wrist?

The short answer is – yes. If you have a shoulder injury, it is possible to also experience pain in other parts of the body, particularly along the arm or around the upper back and neck. For example, neck pain could come along with a shoulder strain, hand pain could occur with a rotator cuff injury, elbow pain may indicate tendinitis, and wrist pain may also happen with arthritis. If there is pain in these other joints or areas without shoulder pain, it may indicate a different injury or condition, so always visit an orthopedic doctor for evaluation.