Common Injuries

Rotator Cuff Tear
Tearing of one or more rotator cuff muscles or their respective tendons, typically following exerting activity or a sudden movement (often with the arm in elevation or overhead). Associated with pain in the shoulder that may radiate into the upper arm and sometimes felt when firmly touching the affected rotator cuff muscle or tendon. Pain may also increase during lifting activities (especially with the arm outstretched or above the head) and when lying on the affected side.

Referred Pain
Pain referred into the shoulder from another source, such as the neck or upper back, frequently associated with symptoms above or below the shoulder (such as the neck, upper back, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist or fingers). Typically associated with pain experienced when firmly touching the source of the referred pain and/or loss of movement in that region. Sometimes in association with pins and needles or numbness in the affected arm or hand.

Dislocated Shoulder
Tearing of the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint, with subsequent displacement and separation of the bones forming the joint, so they are no longer situated next to each other (i.e. the upper arm bone comes out of the socket). Typically occurs as a result of a fall onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact from an object or person. This can result in severe pain in the shoulder that may radiate down the arm; a feeling of the shoulder ‘popping out’; deformity of the shoulder joint; muscle spasm; and sometimes pins and needles or numbness.

Labral Tear of the Shoulder
Damage to the cartilage lining the shoulder joint, often in association with a dislocated shoulder or due to a fall onto the arm, heavy lifting, a pushing or pulling movement or a forceful throw. Pain is usually deep, although may present as vague shoulder pain. A clicking or catching sensation is often present during certain movements. Symptoms may increase with certain, often very specific movements or activities using the shoulder, such as arm elevation and lifting (especially overhead), weight bearing through the affected arm (e.g. push ups) or sometimes lying on the affected side.

AC Joint Sprain
Tearing of the connective tissue and ligaments of the acromio-clavicular joint, typically as a result of a direct impact to the point of the shoulder during a fall or collision. Causes pain at the top of the shoulder that may increase when lying on the affected side, moving the arm across the body and during other shoulder movements. There is also a localised tenderness felt on firmly touching the AC joint.

Clavicle Fracture
A break in the collar bone of the shoulder usually due to a fall onto the point of the shoulder or a forceful direct impact to the clavicle. Associated with severe shoulder pain, swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone and sometimes bone deformity.

Less Common Injuries

Biceps Rupture
Complete tearing of one or more tendons or muscle bellies of the biceps typically due to heavy lifting (particularly overhead). Associated with pain in the front of the shoulder, upper arm or elbow and often a snapping or tearing sensation at the time of injury. Obvious deformity of the bicep muscle is usually noted when compared to the non-injured side, especially when contacting the bicep muscle.

Pectoral Strain
Tearing of one or more of the pectoral muscles, typically during a forceful pushing activity (such as performing a bench press). Associated with pain in the front of the shoulder or chest and often pain on firmly touching the affected muscle. Pain may also increase during pushing activities and when performing a pectoral stretch.

Scapula Fracture
A break in the shoulder blade bone usually due to a fall onto the shoulder blade or a forceful direct impact from an object or person. Associated with severe pain in the shoulder blade region, swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone, markedly reduced shoulder function and sometimes bone deformity.

Humeral Fracture
A break in the upper arm bone usually due to a fall onto an outstretched arm, the shoulder itself, or, a forceful direct impact from an object or person. Associated with severe pain in the shoulder, upper arm or elbow, swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone, markedly reduced shoulder and upper limb function and sometimes bone deformity.