You wake up in the morning to find your shoulder aching and you do not even remember getting hurt. Do not worry; it might well be the result of an erratic sleeping position.
A shoulder sprain can cause much discomfort even while you are carrying out your regular functions, like carrying your laptop on your shoulders. However, though it is not much to worry about yet at the same time, you should not disregard it completely.
What is a Shoulder Sprain?
It is a condition when the ligaments that support our shoulders and hold the bones in place suffer partial tear or are stretched beyond their capacity. It occurs when the glenohumeral joint is affected, that is precisely the point where the shoulder blade cup, the bone and the humerus meet. A mild injury to the juncture causes a sprain while a heavy injure may even result in the dislocation of the shoulder.
What are the causes?
- Twisting of the shoulder forcefully
- A severe blow to the shoulder
- Falling with the arms stretched out
What can happen if it is not treated on time?
I advise my patients to take care of their sprained shoulder as the condition, if neglected, will not only aggravate the injury but also hamper your day to day activities.
- You may not be able to take part in outdoor sports
- You may have a problem with your balance
- The injury may lead to connective tissue disorders that are responsible for loose joints
- Lack of strength in the ligaments and muscles
How do you know that it is a shoulder sprain?
- You will find it difficult to move your shoulder and may even find it tough to raise your hand.
- You will feel a pain around your shoulder and a serious injury may also cause swelling
- There might also be an inflammation on the shoulder area.
If you have a grade I sprain (see below) , you will have a slight swelling and tenderness on the outer tip of your collarbone. You will feel a little pain if you move your arm or shrug your shoulders. In severe joint sprain, the normal contour of the joint will be deformed by the swelling, and the area will be very sensitive. You will feel significant pain as you try to move your arm or when your doctor or exercise trainer touches the joint while you examine it.
How can your doctor determine that you have a sprained shoulder?
When I have patients who report of the above mentioned symptoms, I prescribe the following tests to be sure of the fact that it is a sprain injury of the shoulder.
- MRI Scan
- X-ray: Using the X-rays, the doctor can determine the severity of the sprain by seeing how far the bones of the joint have separated.
Based on this finding, the joint is graded according to the following types:
Type I: The sprain is mild and the articular bones (collarbone and scapula) remain in place. This type is the lightest form of such a sprain.
Type II: The articular bones are partially out of position (subluxation).
Type III to VI: The joint bones are completely separated. Such forms are referred to as shoulder joint blasting.
What should be the treatment?
- Ensure that you rest your shoulder as much as possible.
- Apply an ice pack for a span of 15-20 minutes, three to four times a day and continue this for 2 to 3 days.
- For lighter sprains, a sling and exercises without limiting the range of motion
- In severe sprains surgery
- Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor.
For lighter sprains, as type I and II, the joint is usually sedated, usually with a sling, and it is started early with exercises to maintain the range of motion of the joint. In some severe sprains, shoulder fractures must be operated.
How can physical therapy or exercise help in recuperating from shoulder sprain?
The Need for Physical Therapy for Recovery Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of a sprained shoulder.
Though the movement of the shoulder should be limited when it sustains an injury, in some cases exercises and physical therapy help to reduce the pain to an extent. I advise my patients and ask them to take recourse to mild forms of exercises that not only increase the strength of the shoulder muscles but also increase their flexibility.
As the popular saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, you should be careful about not sustaining an injury in the first place. In case, you do take proper care of your shoulder and seek medical assistance.