How does the shoulder work?
Your shoulder is made up of a ball-and-socket joint that has three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The top end of the humerus has a ball on the end that fits into a small socket of the shoulder blade. This is what forms the shoulder joint. The socket of the shoulder is surrounded by soft-tissue and the head of the arm bone has a smooth, durable surface. There is a thin inner lining of the joint called the synovium, and this allows for the smooth motion of the joint.
The upper portion of the scapula protects the shoulder joint. Your collarbone is attached to the shoulder blade by the acromioclavicular joint, often called the 'AC joint'. The inner portion of the collarbone joins with the breastbone (sternum). Your rotator cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that attach your upper arm to your shoulder, and this structure covers the shoulder joint. You have many muscles that attach to the three upper arm bones and these enable you to lift your arm, throw a ball, swim, and reach over your head.
What are some common shoulder conditions?
Bursitis or Tendinitis
Bursitis or tendinitis occurs with overuse from repetitive activities like weight lifting, swimming, and throwing. These types of activities lead to a pinching and rubbing of the rotator cuff under the AC joint. The biceps tendon and rotator cuff will get irritated and inflamed with tendinitis and can lead to impingement syndrome and biceps tendon tears and/or rotator cuff tears. Sometimes, this condition can be treated by limiting the activity, but oftentimes, the pain starts after the damage has been done. If you have this condition and it is associated with isolated biceps tendon damage and pain, a procedure called 'biceps tendoesis' can be performed by our surgeons. This procedure relieves symptoms and prevents further damage to the joint.
Partial Rotator Cuff Tears
If the rotator cuff is partially torn, it is called a 'partial thickness tear'. These are associated with chronic inflammation of the shoulder joint and the development of spurring under the AC joint. Sometimes, our orthopedic specialists treat these with modification of activity, light exercise, as steroid injections. If these methods fail, surgery will be necessary to repair the rotator cuff and remove the spurs that have developed.
Full-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears
When the rotator cuff is torn completely in two pieces, it is known as a full-thickness rotator cuff tear. This can occur from heavy lifting, a fall, or a car accident. Most of the time, surgery of the shoulder is necessary for full-thickness tears. Arthroscopic techniques allow our expert surgeons to shave the spurs, evaluate the rotator cuff, and repair the tear. If the tear is larger or significantly retracted or associated with other structural problems, the surgeon may have to perform open surgery on the shoulder.
Impingement syndrome develops when the bursa of the joint is inflamed and the bone and tendons are irritated from rubbing on the under surface of the acromion or AC joint. Our orthopedic surgeons can treat this with an 'arthroscopic subacromial decompression' procedure. With this procedure, the doctor removes some of the bony prominence or spurs and the inflamed bursa to allow for more space for the shoulder structures.