Your shoulders are strong, complex and possess the largest range of motion of any joints in your body. They are intricate structures with many different parts working in unison which leaves them particularly vulnerable to injury.
If you or someone close to you suffers an acute injury or experiences lingering shoulder pain, it’s important to quickly request an appointment with a shoulder doctor in Kansas City. Read on to learn why, as well as what to expect when visiting Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance for shoulder treatments.
Your shoulder is made up of 3 bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collarbone) and humerus (upper arm bone). The scapula stabilizes the humerus (upper arm bone), while the clavicle helps to keep your arm in place while away from the body. Those 3 bones combine with 4 joints—the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, glenohumeral joint, sternoclavicular joint, and scapulothoracic joint—to form the primary structure.
The glenohumeral joint is the joint that most people think of when envisioning the shoulder—as this area forms the ball (humeral head) and the socket (the glenoid). The ball-and-socket joint is the area ultimately responsible for much of the shoulder’s large range of motion.
Another structure in the shoulder that most people are aware of is the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff comprises 4 muscles—the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. Those muscles are attached to the humerus via tendons. The muscles in the rotator cuff help stabilize the humerus in the socket and assist with the early stages of arm and shoulder motion.
The labrum—another area often mentioned and occasionally injured in the shoulder— is a thin piece of tissue attached to the rim of the shoulder socket. The labrum helps keep the ball of the joint in place and provides cushioning.
How Shoulder Injuries Develop
The shoulder is very strong, mobile and is activated with nearly every upper body movement— making it susceptible to injury. What we tend to see with shoulder injuries is either an acute event (fall, direct impact, etc.), or the progression of a simple strain or sprain that worsens over time. Both types of injuries come with symptoms that could warrant a visit to a specialist at KCOA for evaluation.
Shoulder instability is a common injury among young people and athletes—occurring when muscles and ligaments become stretched beyond their normal limits. Sometimes there is an acute injury recognized by athletes that helps define instability, like a joint dislocation. In other instances, repetitive high velocity or forceful motions—such as pitching or an overhand serving—can lead to laxity in the joint.
Shoulder muscle strains, if left untreated, may gradually degenerate over time and result in shoulder impingement or shoulder tendonitis. Impingement of the supraspinatus (one of the rotator cuff muscles) occurs when the tendon becomes compressed between the top of the shoulder blade (acromion) and the head of the humerus. Impingement can cause the tendon to lose blood supply and weaken—which can lead to more serious rotator cuff tears.
The articular cartilage that covers and protects the shoulder joint is relatively thin when compared to joints that have weight bearing surfaces—like the hip and knee. As this cartilage wears down, the bones can start to rub up against one another, which leads to complications with osteoarthritis. Arthritis in the shoulder is very common as we age.
The Importance of Early Treatment
If you have an injury to the shoulder, it’s important to seek treatment to prevent a small issue from growing. Minor shoulder pain, if not treated early, can become more intense and eventually can limit your range of motion—potentially making daily tasks very challenging.
Severe acute injuries, on the other hand, can cause significant pain and an immediate loss of function. These tell-tale signs provide an immediate alert that something is wrong. Many people can easily recognize when they (or someone else) has a broken bone, dislocation, or ligament tear.
Early action, whether it’s a minor strain or significant acute event, can lead to better long-term outcomes—as your shoulder doctor in Kansas City can more easily diagnose the issue and develop a treatment plan for that specific injury.
Why Shoulder Pain Goes Untreated
Far too often, patients with “minor” shoulder issues fail to seek prompt treatment from an expert provider. These injuries can develop slowly and often start out as only mild pain. In other instances, symptoms only occur with certain movements or positions—rendering them as “tolerable” for some people. Patients may try to push through injuries or believe that the pain will simply go away with time.
Unfortunately, some athletes we see—or patients with highly physical hobbies or occupations—fail to appreciate the extent of the damage being caused to their shoulders by putting off or avoiding treatment. The length of time that a patient has been in pain—or had functional limitations in the shoulder—directly correlates with our ability to help them achieve their best outcome.
How Activity & Physical Stress Impacts Shoulder Pain
Athletes—particularly baseball and softball players, volleyball players, swimmers, and gymnasts—tend to have a significantly higher rate of shoulder injuries compared to the vast majority of less active people. The same is true for those who have highly active hobbies like weight lifting, or for individuals with physically demanding occupations.
People within these groups often use repetitive, overhand motions—or lift, push or carry heavy items—on a daily basis. These repetitive motions cause significant wear and tear to the shoulder joint and stress the muscles, ligaments, and tendons over time.
Additional Impact of Shoulder Injuries
Beyond the physical pain one experiences with a severe shoulder injury, the mental toll it inflicts is just as difficult. A wide range of joint injuries can impact your daily life, but shoulder injuries can especially impact your ability to sleep. The effects of insufficient sleep have been well documented—but shoulder pain lasting longer than 3 months has shown to cause a 22 percent increase in depression and an 81 percent increase in sleep disturbance.
Early Injury Management
KCOA providers deploy early injury management in cases of shoulder pain stemming from minor ailments—like stiffness, sprains, or strains. Patients can often treat these types of injuries using a combination of at-home remedies (ice, anti-inflammatory medication, stretching and rest) and non-invasive care from a physical therapist.
If the injury is a true sprain or strain, management using these tools and professionals can normally alleviate any pain or loss of function in a few weeks. This is true if these strategies are utilized at the onset of symptoms. Putting off treatment or ignoring early warning signs—while still continuing to overuse and repeat the same motions—may cause the condition to worsen.
If you start to notice more frequent, sharp pains and more limited range of motion, your injury may be progressing towards conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis, or arthritis. Some methods used by KCOA shoulder providers to treat these conditions include:
- Physical Therapy
- Sports medicine treatments
- Physical medicine & rehabilitation
- Pain management & injections
- And orthobiologic treatments
Advanced Injury Stages
Avoiding treatment for minor strains and sprains, and failing to modify shoulder activities that cause you discomfort, may cause your condition to worsen. At this point, there’s a chance that your shoulder condition could become more serious and require more advanced management solutions.
Constant aching, more frequent sharp pains, loss or strength and limited range of motion are all symptoms that indicate a pathology that might ultimately require surgical intervention.
After careful examination and imaging, a recommendation for shoulder surgery may be warranted by a shoulder specialist in Kansas City. Which procedure they choose depends on the diagnosis, extent of the damage, its location and the physician’s specialty training.
Types of potential surgical procedures may include:
- Shoulder Arthroscopy
- Rotator Cuff Repair
- Labral Repair
- Biceps Tenodesis
- Bankart Repair
- Total Shoulder Replacement
In the event you do need surgery, KCOA is the top orthopedic clinic in the entire metro area. Our Board Certified surgeons perform hundreds of shoulder procedures each year and have helped countless people regain a healthy, pain-free life.
Visit KCOA if You’re Suffering from Shoulder Pain
As we’ve outlined, the shoulder is a very complex joint that—while strong and highly mobile—has a relatively high risk of complications compared to other joints. While different people have their own reasons they do not wish to see a shoulder doctor in Kansas City, we highly recommend that you visit a provider if you experience onset shoulder pain.
Treating pain right away makes it far more likely that your physician can identify and correctly diagnose the source of your pain. A correct diagnosis is the most important factor for successful treatment. It allows your provider to create a treatment plan tailored specifically to your symptoms and desired long-term outcomes.
Early shoulder pain treatment also ensures that you minimize damage to the joint. The earlier you treat your shoulder injury, the less pain and loss of motion you’ll experience.
In the event you need care for shoulder pain and injuries, KCOA will be there to help guide you through the process. With multiple Board Certified shoulder specialists, we’re uniquely positioned to ensure patients get the best possible long-term outcome from their treatment.
Schedule an Appointment with a Shoulder Doctor in Kansas Kansas City Today!
At Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance, we make it our mission to create a superior patient experience for all. Regardless of the location or severity of your injury, our team will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome.
Request an appointment with one of our providers to find the best treatment option for your needs. You can also receive a thorough evaluation by calling (913) 319-7600 or by using our symptom tracker tool. If you have any additional questions or comments, feel free to fill out our contact form to get a prompt response from a KCOA representative.