An In-Depth Look at the Shoulder and Elbow

The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder and hinge joint of the elbow give us the ability to reach overhead, bend, flex, and rotate our arms to perform a myriad of movements for carrying out everyday tasks.

However, overuse, injury, disease, and other conditions of these joints can lead to pain and limited mobility of your arm, which can affect your quality of life and even sideline your career.  Therefore, it’s important to understand a little more about how these remarkable joints work and what you should do if you’re experiencing shoulder or elbow pain.

Coastal Orthopedics is a recognized industry leader, and we are happy to provide you with expert care, solutions and information to help you along in your healthcare journey. Keep reading to learn more about the shoulder and elbow.

The Shoulder

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and allows for an incredible range of motion. This is due to the formation of the shoulder, which is comprised of three bones and two joints.

The bones of the shoulder consist of:

  1. The upper arm bone (humerus)
  2. The shoulder blade (scapula), and
  3. The collarbone (clavicle)

The two joints in the shoulder are:

  1. The Acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) which is a located at the junction of the clavicle and scapula, and
  2. The Glenohumeral joint, which is where the upper arm bone fits into the shoulder blade like a ”ball and socket” allowing a wide rotation around its axis.

Other key elements that make up the shoulder are the:

  • Rotator Cuff, a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint providing support and assisting in range of motion capability.
  • Bursa Sac, a small sac of fluid that cushions the tendons of the rotator cuff and prevents friction, and
  • Labrum, cartilage surrounding the socket of the shoulder joint that forms a cup for the rounded head of the humerus to fit into and provide more stability for the joint.

With many intricate components and a wide range of motion, the shoulder is particularly vulnerable to injury.

Some of the most common shoulder injuries are:

  • Rotator cuff tear: Caused by a sudden injury or long-term overuse in which a tear in one of the tendons or muscles surrounding the top of the humerus occurs.
  • Frozen shoulder: Inflammation and immobility for long periods of time can cause pain and stiffness of the shoulder resulting in severely limited movement.
  • Osteoarthritis: Pain and inflammation caused by common wear-and-tear of the joint over time.
  • Dislocation: When one of the shoulder bones “pops” out of places due to an injury. Often accompanied by swelling, intense pain, and inability to move the joint.
  • Tendonitis: Inflammation in one of the tendons of the shoulder causing pain and limited mobility. It is also one of the most common shoulder pain complaints for people over 40.
  • Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa sac, which is located over the rotator cuff and helps prevent friction. If inflamed, the bursa sac can cause pain or pressure when performing overhead activities.

The Elbow

The elbow is comprised of a complex hinge joint that not only allows for constant flexing and extension of the forearm, but a small amount of rotation as well.

The elbow joint is where the upper arm bone (humerus) connects with the bones that make up the forearm (the radius and ulnar bones). Cartilage surrounds these bones to help prevent friction and absorb shocks. Ligament, tendons, and muscles also provide protection, support, and movement ability of the elbow joint and forearm.

There are a variety of conditions that can cause elbow pain, which is why receiving an accurate diagnosis to ensure a proper treatment plan is so important. Some of the more common injuries of the elbow are:

  • Dislocation: When one of the bones that make up the elbow gets popped out of place, usually caused by a fall or sudden injury.
  • Fracture: When one of the bones breaks at the elbow, also usually caused by a sudden injury like a blow or car accident. Small cracks caused by stress from overuse are called stress fractures.
  • Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow: Damage to the tendons in your elbow caused by overuse and repetitive motions, tennis or golfer’s elbow can cause pain and weakness of the elbow and hand.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): A long-term condition associated with aging, RA can cause pain, inflammation, and stiffness around the elbow leading to swelling and limited mobility.
  • Pinched Nerve: Also known as nerve entrapment, a pinched nerve in this area can cause elbow pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness of the arm.

If you are experiencing any of the above shoulder or elbow conditions, or have pain or decreased mobility in your shoulder or elbow, it’s imperative you visit a doctor if your pain has continued for more than two weeks. Immediate care can improve the chances of a full recovery. You can also watch our videos about range of motion in the elbow and exercises you can do to keep these areas strengthened in your body.

Keep in mind, though, that treatment of injuries or diseases affecting the complex shoulder and elbow joints requires very specialized knowledge. If you’re in need of an experienced shoulder and elbow specialist, then visit Dr. Kumar at Coastal Orthopedics. Dr. Kumar is widely recognized as a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of shoulder and elbow problems.

Coastal Orthopedics has been providing comprehensive orthopedics, sports medicine, and pain management services for over 45 years. With customized treatment plans for the best outcomes, our team of orthopedic surgeons and pain management physicians are the answer to any of your orthopedic needs. Call 941-792-1404 to book your consultation today.