A shoulder sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that stabilize the shoulder. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other.
Capsule of Glenohumeral Joint
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Shoulder sprains may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your risk of a shoulder sprain include:
Shoulder sprain may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you injured your shoulder. The doctor will examine your shoulder to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Tests may include:
Shoulder sprains are graded according to their severity:
Your shoulder will need time to heal. Avoid activities that cause pain or put extra stress on your shoulder.
Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes several times a day after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.
To manage pain, your doctor may recommend:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Extra support may be needed to help protect, support, and keep your shoulder in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include:
Shoulder sprains may not always be preventable. There are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting a shoulder sprain. These include:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Benjamin HJ, Hang BT. Common Acute Upper Extremity Injuries In Sports. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 2007;8(1):15-30.
DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 2nd ed. Ch. 21. Philadelphia; Elsevier; 2003.
Micheo WF, Ramos E. Frontera: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1st ed. Ch. 15. Philadelphia; Hanley and Belfus; 2002.
Shoulder problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Shoulder_Problems/default.asp. Updated May 2010. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Shoulder separation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00033. Updated October 2007. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Shoulder strain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care . Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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