The biceps is the muscle that is located in the upper arm, and used for bending the elbow and twisting the forearm. If a biceps becomes injured or torn, the possible areas and diagnoses are: the shoulder (proximal biceps tendon tear); the elbow (distal biceps tendonitis and tear); or when a tendon in the forearm becomes inflamed due to overuse, infection, or even rheumatic disease (tendonitis). Symptoms of biceps tendon injuries include bruising, swelling, or weakness, fatigue, or pain in the arm, among other signs. In addition to a physical exam, an X-ray or MRI scan may be necessary to determine the severity and type of biceps injury the patient may be suffering from. Depending on the diagnosis, treatment options may involve physical therapy, rest, and medication to reduce inflammation. In the event the injury is severe, surgery may be necessary.
Breaks and fractures can occur in any of the three bones that comprise the shoulder. These bones are:
“Clavicle” (or collarbone) – a thin and long bone, starting at the base of the neck and extending to the shoulder.
“Humerus” (or upper arm bone) – bone extending from the shoulder down to the elbow.
“Scapula” (or shoulder blade) – the connecting bone for the clavicle and humerus.
Symptoms of breaks/fractures to the shoulder include intense pain that increases when arm is moving, bruising or swelling of the injured area, and being unable to move the arm at all. Treatment options can include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or surgery if the break/fracture is very severe.
If a person experiences pain and stiffness in their shoulder and it intensifies over time, but then eventually stops, he or she may be experiencing a “frozen shoulder.” The main area affected in this situation is the shoulder capsule, which is the tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint (the upper arm, shoulder blade and collarbone). When motion of shoulder capsule becomes limited and this area is hard to move, a frozen shoulder manifests itself in three phases: freezing (pain that slowly gets worse); frozen (less pain but more stiffness); and thawing (motion and use of the shoulder slowly returns). A frozen shoulder can be diagnosed through physical exams, X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI scans. Treatment options can include physical therapy, shoulder manipulation, and medication.
The tearing of the shoulder’s rotator cuff is a not an uncommon injury. A torn rotator cuff can be the result of either an injury or gradual degeneration as a person ages. The use of the affected shoulder becomes limited and those suffering from this condition find it difficult to complete routine activities that involve use of the arms. Rotator cuff tears can be diagnosed with physical exam, ultrasounds, or MRI scans. The earlier a torn rotator cuff is treated, the less chance its symptoms will worsen. Quite often, most torn rotator cuff diagnoses can be treated without the need for surgery, but through rest, modified activity, and specialized exercises and physical therapy.
When a person’s upper arm bone is separated from the shoulder blade socket, he or she has suffered a shoulder dislocation. Symptoms include serious pain and swelling or bruising of the shoulder, and difficulty with mobility of this joint. A shoulder dislocation may be the result of a sports-related injury or sudden impact from a fall or accident. This condition requires immediate care from a medical professional, and steps must be taken to avoid moving the shoulder joint. Additionally ice should be applied to the shoulder area to minimize swelling and pain. Treatment options can include “closed reduction” (having the shoulder bones lightly pressed into place by a medical professional), medication, immobilization via splint or sling until shoulder heals, or surgery if the injury is very severe.
When the tendon or muscle of a person’s shoulder is stretched or torn, they are suffering from “shoulder strain.” A frequent cause of this condition is if the shoulder stays in a single position for long periods of time. Shoulder strain can result from activities that are as strenuous as carrying a heavy load on one shoulder or as casual as having poor posture when sitting in a certain position for long periods of time. Additionally, sports that involve overhead arm movements can cause shoulder strain. Shoulder strains can be diagnosed with physical exam, ultrasounds, and MRI scans. Treatments for shoulder strains may require combined rest and immobilization to reduce the pain and swelling. In some cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be necessary to help alleviate the pain.