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Shoulder Sprains and Strains

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

The human body experiences a variety of sprains and strains, and the shoulders are no exception. The shoulder is a ball-and-joint socket and is interconnected with other different bones and tissues. Given their flexibility, the shoulders are commonly susceptible to injury. Injuries occur when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are put under stress resulting in sprains and strains.


Shoulder sprains, also called an acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury, occur at the joint area where the acromion (the bone at the top of the shoulder blade) and the clavicle or collarbone meet. When the ligaments or the bone connections are torn or stretched, the injury causes the bones of the joint to get detached or dislocated. Sprains are usually caused by direct trauma to the shoulder, such as in a car crash or during a fall.


Shoulder sprains are categorized into grades to describe the ligament damage and the level of separation between the acromion and the clavicle. In a Grade 1 sprain, the AC joint ligaments get stretched or partially torn, but the bones remain connected. There can be mild swelling and pain. In a Grade 2 sprain, the ligaments get completely torn, which can cause pain and swelling.


In a Grade 3 sprain, the joints become totally separated, resulting in dislocation. This can cause pain, bruising, and swelling, affecting the shoulder’s ability to move properly. A grade 4 - 6 sprain involves significant tearing between the connective tissues, shoulder blade, and collar bone, often resulting in permanently visible damage such as swelling or bumps over the shoulder.


Shoulder strains, on the other hand, occur when the shoulder’s muscles or tendons get torn. This usually happens when the shoulder is being used in an awkward position such as when lifting an item above your head. This can apply significant amounts of force to your shoulders when they are most vulnerable resulting in a strain. Strains can also occur from repeated movements, for example, while swimming or playing tennis.


There are physical therapy exercises that can be applied to help resolve shoulder sprain or strain as part of the post-injury treatment and recovery process.


Pressing Exercises: Also referred to as vertical pressing, this exercise helps to develop the muscles and improve shoulder health. It can bring back the stability and activation of the various muscles needed for the lift.


Lacrosse Ball Exercises: or massages make use of the hard and dense lacrosse balls. The ball targets the fascia or the thin sheath of tissues that cover the muscles of the body. By massaging the fascia or applying myofascial therapy, the lacrosse ball helps in loosening and freeing the tightened fascia or the underlying tissues. It also helps increase the motion of the joint and improve muscle performance in the shoulders.


Band And Raise Exercises: This exercise makes use of resistance bands that target the shoulder’s muscles. The exercise strengthens the shoulder muscles and improves their posture. There are various positions that band and raise exercises can be done in to target different shoulder muscles, for example, reverse fly, front raise, lateral raise, and standing row.


At Arise Physical Therapy, we offer a comprehensive range of treatment options that are designed to help speed up the recovery process for any injuries and/or pain you may be experiencing. If you have experienced an injury or if you are feeling muscle or joint pain, we would like to encourage you to get in touch with us today and we will see if we can find a suitable time to assess you.


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