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Shoulder & Elbow

Understanding the shoulder

The shoulder has a wider and more varied range of motion than any other joint in the body. It allows a wide range of motions – painting, throwing, hammering, reaching, picking up your child.

But this incredible flexibility comes at a price: The shoulder is one of the most unstable, and thus easily injured, joint in the body. And although we often think of the shoulder as one joint, it consists of three joints held together by a complex system of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. People who place great demands on the shoulder, such as swimmers, carpenters and painters are at greater risk of shoulder problems. And … just like everything else, the older we are, the greater the risk.

Pain, loss of strength, and limited range of motion will often cause people to seek help from an orthopedic surgeon for their shoulder problems. Common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Dislocations
  • Traumatic injury
  • Repetitive injury

See a Physician if...

  • Pain persists beyond a few days
  • Pain occurs at night or while resting
  • You experience swelling or significant bruising around the joint
  • You see signs of infection, including warmth in the affected area, fever, tenderness or increasing discomfort

Shoulder pain may be felt within the shoulder girdle itself, or may radiate into the neck, back or the arms.

Know your elbow

The elbow allows you to extend your arm (extension) or to bring it back to the body (flexion) and to turn the lower part of the arm over (palm up/palm down). Although the elbow does not bear weight, per se, it can be stressed by activities such as gymnastics/tumbling, throwing, and movements involved in certain occupations, such as carpentry.

Three bones make up the elbow: the upper arm, called the humerus; the ulna, the large bone in the forearm; and the radius, the smaller bone in the forearm. Conditions affecting the elbow include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Dislocation
  • Elbow spurs
  • Fractures
  • Golfer's Elbow
  • Ligament tears
  • Tendonitis
  • Tendon rupture
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Throwing injuries
  • Trauma (such as might occur in a fall or an accident)

Get Back in the Swing of Things

When problems related to tendon tears, instability, fractures, arthritis or other conditions impede movement, both surgical and non-surgical treatments may be considered to ease discomfort and help restore movement. Treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Changes in the way one uses the joint (as a treatment for conditions like tennis elbow or golfer's elbow)
  • Anti-inflammatory medications;
  • Stretching and specific exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections
  • Surgical intervention