Orthopedic Conditions of the Shoulder

Muscle, tendons and ligaments come together in a ball and socket joint to provide stability while also creating flexibility and the range of motion required to perform the never-ending myriad of tasks by one of our most underappreciated joints – the shoulder.

Of all the joints in the body, the shoulder is considered the most moveable, but is also the most unstable – and therefore extremely susceptible to injury from overuse. Shoulder injuries and chronic conditions keep an orthopedist busy. Here are some of the most common orthopedic conditions of the shoulder.


There are more than one hundred types of arthritis, the two most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While both affect the joints, it is the “wear and tear” of osteoarthritis that comes with time and age. With osteoarthritis, thinning in the cartilage of the joint leads to degeneration to the point where bone can grind on bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease whereby the body’s immune system actually turns on itself, leading to a variety of painful outcomes. In the case of the rheumatoid arthritis, the breakdown of the immune system causes the synovial membrane surrounding the shoulder joint to be vulnerable, causing pain, inflammation and extreme discomfort.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The four muscles and tendons stabilizing the shoulder joint are defined as the rotator cuff. If it weren’t for the rotator cuff, we wouldn’t be able to raise our arms or rotate them. Athletes who are engaged in sports that put extreme stress on the shoulder – baseball, swimming and tennis, for example – increase the risk of rotator cuff tears. However, rotator cuff tears can also occur with normal wear and tear, often the result of occupational activities such as painting or working machinery. There are two different types of tears that affect the rotator cuff:  a partial tear occurs when the tendon protecting the shoulder is damaged; a complete tear is as its name implies, with the tear traveling completely through the tendon that can at times even pull away from the bone.


When the rotator cuff or the tendon in the bicep becomes inflamed, it is termed tendonitis of the shoulder and characterized by pain and the inability to complete certain arm positions. Occupations or activities that require you to continually raise your arms over your head cause tendonitis in the shoulder. Athletes who participate in sports that require this type of repetitive motion are at risk of shoulder tendonitis.

Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder presents with pain and stiffness. Gradually, the condition worsens and can last for years. Frozen shoulder occurs when the tissue surrounding the humerus, scapula and collarbone, thickens. This convergence of the three bones and tissue is also referred to as the capsule. When scar tissue forms around the capsule, synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint, is lost. The capsule becomes so thick that it inhibits movement of the shoulder, thus frozen shoulder.


Shoulder strains result from overstretching the muscles and/or tendons in the shoulder joint. Surprisingly, you can strain the muscles or tendons in the shoulder by failing to practice good posture or even by carrying a suitcase or backpack over one shoulder, rather than allowing both shoulders to bear the weight. Strains can come from heavy lifting or doing things you are not prepared to do.

Dislocated Shoulder

An overworked or injured shoulder can be dislocated, meaning it has, quite literally, dislocated from the socket. Partial dislocations occur when the humerus – the upper part of the arm – becomes partially dislocated from the socket; with a complete dislocation the humerus becomes fully dislodged.

Painful conditions that affect the shoulder should be diagnosed and treated – before they become worse. By seeking treatment early on, you can intercept the condition before it requires surgical attention. Remember, shoulder pain that lasts for an extended period of time is considered to be chronic and needn’t be endeared.

Tarpon Orthopedics will address your painful shoulder and other musculoskeletal concerns. We will diagnose the condition, work with you to develop an appropriate and effective treatment plan and will also address the pain with cutting-edge pain management techniques. Call us for more information or to request an appointment. Don’t shoulder the pain; call us today at 972-596-1059 or request an appointment online.

Alex Hirsch

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