Common problems of the shoulder

Shoulder Condition Symptoms

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. A group of four tendons in the shoulder, called the rotator cuff, give the shoulder a wide range of motion. The shoulder joint also comprises of three bones namely the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone).

As the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it, the muscles, tendons and ligaments act as anchor to keep the shoulder stable and in position. Since the shoulder can easily become unhinged, many problems occur at this joint and cause pain. Swelling, damage or bone changes around the rotator cuff can cause severe shoulder pain.

The most common problems of the shoulder include:

  • Arthritis in the shoulder joint;
  • Bone spurs in the shoulder area;
  • Bursitis i.e. inflammation of a fluid-filled sac (bursa) that normally protects the joint and helps it move smoothly;
  • Broken shoulder bone;
  • Dislocation of the shoulder;
  • Shoulder separation;
  • Frozen shoulder, which occurs when the muscles, tendons and ligaments inside the shoulder become stiff, making movement difficult and painful;
  • Overuse or injury of tendons close to the shoulder such as the bicep muscles of the arms; and
  • Tears of the rotator cuff tendons.

Usually shoulder problems are treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation. Other treatments include exercise, medicines to reduce pain and swelling as well as surgery.

Torn rotator cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the humeral-glenoid joint. Their function is to provide stability for the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff muscle can be torn due to years of overusing the shoulder, a traumatic fall or accident or due to the natural muscle breakdown that occurs as we age.


There are many different types of arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease. The cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the joint deteriorates and becomes thin. Eventually it wears out, causing the bones in the shoulder joint to rub together. This results in pain and the loss of movement in the joint. Another type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disease.
The joint lining becomes inflamed as part of the body’s immune system activity. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most serious and disabling types, affecting mostly women.


Fractures of the humerus are very common and usually occur at the top of the arm bone. During surgery to repair the break, the fractured pieces are put back together and held in position with pins, wires, sutures or plates. In some instances a shoulder replacement is the best option to repair the fracture and restore function.

Shoulder Dislocation

As the shoulder has tremendous arc of motion, it is inclined to “dislocation.” When a dislocation occurs, the humerus, or “ball” of the shoulder, comes out of the socket. Most often this occurs in the front of the shoulder. Shoulder dislocation is generally the result of a fall or other trauma. If a person has had a shoulder dislocation, his/her risk to have more dislocations increases