Shoulder injuries are extremely common — they are one of those things that you or someone you know has likely experienced. They typically vary in degree of seriousness, but if any shoulder injury is left untreated, it can lead to more and more problems. When it comes to shoulder injuries and injuries in general, it can be hard to determine what the core problem is. The shoulder as a joint is extremely mobile, it goes in a lot of different directions. The downside with the mobility is that it will be less strong making it more susceptible to injury. Let’s take a look at where those issues can reside, the top three shoulder injuries, and how to alleviate the pain.

Finding the Issue: tests and location of pain

The problem with the shoulders is, despite the size, there are many different locations where that pain could originate. There is the rotator cuff, which is composed of four fairly small muscles; the Acromioclavicular Joint (AC joint); the Sternoclavicular (SC joint); and the other ligaments and tendons holding everything together. All of these examples are common locations for injury.

The big question is, “How serious is the problem?” You might be feeling a little pain or discomfort, or it might be more severe. There are ways that you can assess the injury on your own, or you can go into a physical therapy office where they will perform similar tests. If you don’t feel comfortable doing these assessments yourself, it is recommended that you go to a trained physician who is qualified to help.

Top three shoulder injuries and their tests

Listed below are three of the top shoulder injuries that we’ve seen people deal with. Now, this may differ on the person depending on their individual activity level. If someone is involved in an intense workout routine, they might experience more serious symptoms or injuries. Let’s jump right in!

Rotator Cuff Injuries: When one has a rotator cuff injury it can be described as a dull ache deep within the shoulder which can be accompanied by arm weakness, and over-head movement can be difficult or extremely painful.(1) Tests that can be done to identify this injury are the following: the Empty can test, the Gerber’s Lift Off Test, and others found online.(2) 

Impingement syndrome: A shoulder impingement can range in severity. You’ll usually find difficulty in reaching up behind the back, pain with overhead use of the arm, and overall weakness of the shoulder muscles.(3) If left untreated it can cause even more damage to a tendon and result in a torn tendon. Two tests that can be done to assess this injury type are the Neer’s Test and Hawkins-Kennedy Test.(2)

SLAP tear (labrum tear): This is a tear to the ring of cartilage (labrum) that surrounds your shoulder's socket. A SLAP tear tends to develop over time from repetitive overhead movements.(4) Symptoms of a SLAP tear can result in “A catching, locking, or grinding feeling, an unstable feeling in the shoulder, loss of strength, and low range of motion.”(5) A few tests that can be done to assess this injury are the O’Brian’s Test and the Crank’s Test.(2)

Fixing the Pain

As mentioned before, if you are experiencing a lot of pain or aren’t comfortable doing these assessments on your own, see a doctor. It is common that they will also refer you to a physical therapist or shoulder specialist. After identifying the injury, you will most likely undergo at least 1 or all 4 of these steps on the road to recovery:

  1. Rest – You must rest, overuse of an injury will lead to more long-term problems. 
  2. Mobility, stretching, and massage – working on mobility will help with recovery and will prevent further damage. Using the Meteor to help massage the injured shoulder will provide relief as well as help the shoulder to heal correctly.  
  3. Physical Therapy – A physical therapist will provide different exercises and stretches to help you recover.
  4. Surgery – If you end up getting surgery you will have to go through all of these steps. A surgical operation is sometimes necessary to properly repair the joint and ensure that no further damage will take place.