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Last updated: Oct 6, 2021

Shoulder Sprain/Shoulder Strain

Shoulder sprains and strains are common injuries among athletes and weightlifters. They can also happen to seniors after years of constant wear and tear. While a shoulder strain or sprain isn’t necessarily a serious condition, it can leave you with extreme pain and reduced mobility that can worsen if you don’t get the proper treatment. Don’t wait until you’re entirely immobile before seeking assistance from your pain management team at Redefine Healthcare. Call for an appointment today.

Shoulder LigamentsWhile an active lifestyle helps you achieve good overall health, some of your activities may result in joint damage. Millions of Americans visit the doctor’s office each year with a shoulder sprain or a shoulder strain. Just when you thought your fitness regimen was hitting its stride, a damaged shoulder can change your life if you don’t get quick, effective treatment.

Although your shoulder is a robust and durable joint, many sports and work-related motions can cause muscle strain in the shoulder. Shoulder problems can also result from various diseases.

If you feel any pain in your shoulder, get a firm diagnosis and the proper treatment at Redefine Healthcare, a pain management clinic with four locations in northern New Jersey.

The Difference Between a Strain and a Sprain

While often referred to interchangeably, there’s a distinct medical difference between the two. A sprain refers to the tearing or separation of your ligaments, which are the soft fibrous tissues that hold your bones together. While the ankle is the most common joint to suffer a sprain, shoulder injury sprains do happen frequently, and we diagnose them as:

  • Minor sprain, which is a stretching of the ligament
  • Moderate sprain or a partial tear of the ligament, where the joint remains stable
  • Severe sprain, which happens when a complete tear of the ligament occurs — you may hear a pop

On the other hand, a strain occurs when the muscles or tendons, made up of the soft tissues that attach muscle to bone, are damaged. Shoulder strains frequently affect the shoulder’s rotator cuff. Sprains and strains lead to shoulder pain that lingers, especially if you continue doing the activity that caused the damage.

Symptoms of Shoulder Strain and Shoulder Pain

The severity of your symptoms can vary widely depending on the extent of the damage to your shoulder. Most of the symptoms of shoulder strain and sprain are similar. However, the onset of shoulder sprain symptoms is immediate, while a shoulder strain usually happens gradually. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Weakness in the joint
  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Limited mobility
  • Frozen shoulder

If these symptoms do not respond quickly to home care with rest, heat, and ice, visit the pain management specialists at Redefine Healthcare to find the exact cause and source of your discomfort. Then your doctor can develop a suitable treatment plan.

Causes of a Strained and Sprained Shoulder

The stretching or tearing of a tendon or muscle in your shoulder can result from excessive movement or forcing the shoulder into an unnatural position for an extended period. Some of the most common causes of a strained muscle in the shoulder are:

  • Poor posture while keyboarding
  • Carrying a heavy load on one shoulder
  • Athletic activities that require movement above the head, such as swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and baseball pitching

Sprained shoulders generally result from trauma, such as car accidents or a fall on your arm. However, osteoarthritis can also cause shoulder pain, although the disease is more commonly associated with hip pain and knee pain.

Treatment for a Sprained Shoulder

During a thorough physical exam that may include MRIs or x-rays, your doctor determines the exact location and severity of the sprain. Afterward, he can design a personalized shoulder pain treatment program for you and monitor your progress. Your home care likely involves some form of the R.I.C.E. protocol:

  • Rest. This treatment step doesn’t mean complete immobility. You just need to avoid activities that lead to pain and swelling.
  • Ice. Apply ice to the sprained area for 15 minutes every three to four hours.
  • Compression. Wrapping the shoulder with a bandage can reduce swelling.
  • Elevation. Place your arm in an elevated position while applying ice.

Beyond the R.I.C.E. program, your doctor may also recommend:

  • Over-the-counter medications. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Physical therapy. A specialist helps you increase stability and strength in the damaged joint.
  • Braces or splints. Reducing movement speeds recovery.
  • Surgery. A severely torn ligament may require surgery.

Shoulder Strain Treatment

During your initial visit, your doctor performs a thorough examination to ascertain the severity of the strain. Next, he has to determine if you’re suffering from a rotator cuff strain, a strained shoulder blade, or a shoulder muscle strain. Your treatment depends on the diagnosis.

The treatment is similar to what you do for a shoulder sprain. Follow the R.I.C.E method in conjunction with a personalized physical therapy program. The experts at Redefine Healthcare — with offices in Union, Paterson, Clifton, and Edison — can get you back to peak performance in the shortest time possible. Contact us to make an appointment.

This page was published on Oct 9, 2019, modified on Oct 6, 2021 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare
Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist

Dr. Eric D. Freeman, a highly regarded pain specialist in New Jersey, is board-certified and fellowship-trained in Interventional Spine and Pain Management and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is an expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures and non-surgical orthopedic care.

Dr. Freeman is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Interventional Pain Practice Society. In addition, he serves as the Immediate Past President of the New Jersey Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. Dr. Freeman is well-known in the field of pain management as a leading pain management doctor, having been named one of "America's Top Physicians."

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