The shoulder is a complex joint of mythical strength (at least if your name is Atlas and you’re carrying the weight of the world on it).
From baseball pitching to carrying little kids to lifting overhead, the shoulder gets quite the workout. It’s important to take care of this joint - especially if it’s been injured. One of the most common injuries is to the rotator cuff tendons.
There are four tendons surrounding the shoulder to provide stability and assist in the normal range of motion. Pain and limited range of motion are often the first indicators that something could be wrong with those tendons. They can be inflamed, torn partially or torn full-thickness.
After an initial evaluation with your primary healthcare professional, you may be sent for imaging. Typically, this area can be evaluated with MRI or an ultrasound. Some shoulder injuries are difficult to see without some fluid in the joint – this is when an MR arthrogram might be performed. MR arthrograms can evaluate partial tendon tears and provides an excellent evaluation of the labrum or cartilage lining the joint. Labral injuries may be seen in patients who have had a dislocation of their shoulder joint as well as in athletes.
Some of the rotator cuff tendons sit underneath the acromioclavicular joint - the smaller part of the joint on top of the shoulder. Changes in the acromioclavicular joint, either differences in the shape of the acromion or degenerative arthritis, may predispose you to problems with the rotator cuff tendons or may lead to chronic tendon irritation or tears.
The shoulder is a complex joint, and vital to many daily functions we don’t even think about, such as brushing your hair or lifting your groceries. So if you have an injury, pain or develop difficulty in moving your shoulder, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.
And remember - prevention is the best medicine! Stronger shoulders are less likely to incur injury, and strengthening the rotator cuff can be achieved. Here’s a Real Simple way to improve your shoulder health.
Image credit: Shoulder joint by National Institute Of Arthritis And Musculoskeletal And Skin Diseases (NIAMS) via Wikipedia Copright Public Domain
Originally published 4/17/14 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.