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What are Shoulder Ligament Injuries?

Shoulder ligament injuries are injuries to the tough elastic tissues present around the shoulder that connect bones to each other and stabilize the joint. The ligaments present in the shoulder are connected to the ends of the scapula, humerus, and clavicle bones which form the shoulder complex. The extensive stretching or tearing of these ligaments from acute or chronic injuries can lead to instability in the shoulder joint.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint formed by 3 bones, the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). The head of the upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket, called the glenoid, in the shoulder blade. Soft tissues like tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, and muscles surround these bones, joining them together and providing support and strength for the proper working of the shoulder.

Causes of Shoulder Ligament Injuries

Causes of shoulder ligament injuries include:

  • Direct trauma to the shoulder
  • Repetitive overhead arm movements
  • Lifting heavyweights
  • Shoulder separation caused by falling on an outstretched arm
  • Torn Rotator Cuff
  • Fracture
  • Dislocation

Symptoms of Shoulder Ligament Injuries

Signs and symptoms of shoulder ligament injuries include:

  • Trouble moving the shoulder freely
  • Deformity or persistent swelling around the joint
  • Tenderness, warmth, or redness around the shoulder
  • Any other unusual symptoms or pain in the shoulder

Diagnosis of Shoulder Ligament Injuries

Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination to check for a range of motion, stability, and strength of your shoulder. If necessary, your doctor will order certain imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Shoulder Ligament Injuries

Treatments for shoulder ligament injuries include both surgical as well as non-surgical options. The doctor will decide the best option based on the condition of your shoulder.

Nonsurgical treatment options may include:

  • Ice: Application of ice packs around the shoulder can help decrease the swelling and pain.
  • Activity Modification: Avoid activities that might trigger symptoms and worsen the ligament injury.
  • Physical Therapy: Regular exercise helps improve range of motion and strengthen shoulder muscles, which will reduce strain on the injured shoulder ligaments.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medication: The use of anti-inflammatory medicines like naproxen and ibuprofen can help in relieving the inflammation and pain associated with the shoulder ligament injury.
  • Cortisone Injections: Cortisone is a highly effective anti-inflammatory medication which can quickly resolve symptoms and improve shoulder function when followed up with appropriate rehabilitation.

Surgical treatment options may include:

  • Arthroscopy: This is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves making tiny keyhole incisions to pass a fiberoptic tube with a tiny camera known as an arthroscope along with miniature instruments into the shoulder joint to identify and repair the ligament injury.
  • Open Surgery: This method involves making a relatively larger surgical incision over the shoulder joint to repair the affected region. It may be indicated in cases with large and complex shoulder ligament injuries.

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