6 of the Most Common Shoulder Injuries

November 22, 2021 – 4 min read

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6 of the Most Common Shoulder Injuries

Learn the symptoms of top shoulder injuries and how to identify them accurately.

Inside your shoulder are three bones held in place by muscles, tendons and ligaments. When something goes wrong with any of these parts, shoulder injuries may occur.

Here’s how to recognize some of the most common shoulder problems and what imaging technologies Touchstone Medical Imaging provides to diagnose the issue for you and your doctor.

Dislocating the Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is a painful condition that occurs when the upper arm bone pulls out of the shoulder socket. It may pull downward, forward or backward. On top of pain, shoulder dislocation makes the shoulder unsteady and difficult or even impossible to use. The affected arm may physically appear out of position, your shoulder may spasm and you may experience weakness and numbness of the arm, fingers, hand or neck.

Confirming a dislocated shoulder requires a physical examination. Your doctor may also order medical imaging. Providers often recommend X-ray imaging for this purpose. In some cases, they may also order an MRI or CT to determine if there is damage to soft tissues, ligaments, cartilage or tendons of the shoulder.

Fractured Shoulder Bones

As with other bones, shoulder bones break. Shoulder fractures are typically accompanied by pain and swelling. Your shoulder or upper back may look wrong or out of place. Moving the shoulder will be painful or impossible. If you move the shoulder, you may experience a grinding feeling, as well.

Generally, shoulder fractures are diagnosed with a traditional X-ray. However, providers sometimes order a CT scan for a 3-dimensional view of the break.

Rotator Cuff Tear

One of the most common shoulder injuries is a torn rotator cuff. Made of tendons—connective tissue attaching muscle to bone—the rotator cuff stabilizes your shoulder and helps it move. Over time, these tendons can wear down or an injury may cause the rotator cuff tendons to tear.

A torn rotator cuff is commonly associated with pain and an inability to raise your arm. It may become difficult to perform common daily tasks. You may feel pain when you reach overhead, brush your teeth and perform other simple activities. The pain may occur with specific movements or it may affect you when sitting still.

Getting to the root of the problem typically requires one or more imaging scans. Doctors often rely upon an MRI, X-ray or ultrasound to visualize your torn rotator cuff.

Tendinitis of the Rotator Cuff

Also called impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tendinitis has many causes. Long-term bad posture, a history of sleeping on the same arm and repetitive overhead movement can all result in rotator cuff tendinitis. As the condition settles in, it causes mild pain. If left untreated, the pain can worsen. You may lose range of motion and everyday activities might become difficult.

Healthcare providers commonly order an MRI to diagnose the condition and determine the best course of treatment.

Small Injuries Plus Time: Arthritis of the Shoulder

According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately one-third of people 60 or older have osteoarthritis of the shoulder. This condition is often the result of wear and tear on the joint. An injury at work, or on the athletic field, is also a common cause of osteoarthritis.

Regardless of the cause, shoulder arthritis causes pain, stiffness and swelling. These symptoms often lead people to stop using the affected shoulder.

Providers commonly order X-ray imaging to determine whether arthritis is present in the shoulder.

Overuse Injury: Bursitis Inside the Shoulder Joint

Bursae—small, fluid-filled sacs—provide cushioning between bones and skin, tendons and muscle. If you overuse or injure your shoulder, a bursa in the shoulder may get inflamed. As a result, you’ll often feel pain and swelling.

Diagnosing bursitis begins with a physical exam and a discussion of your symptoms. An MRI is then performed for a definitive diagnosis.

Treating Common Shoulder Injuries

Treatment for shoulder injuries begins with an accurate diagnosis. Your specific treatment depends on your specific injury, age and overall health. Your physician will determine your best course of treatment depending on your diagnosis and the results of your medical imaging scan. This may include simple rest-and-recovery, nonsurgical or surgical treatment.

Touchstone Medical Imaging for Shoulder Insight

Tired of shouldering the pain on your own? Touchstone Medical Imaging can help you get to the bottom of your painful problem without navigating a complex hospital. Touchstone Medical Imaging has convenient locations in seven states, likely one close to you. All you need to get started is a doctor’s referral.


With your doctor’s referral, find the closest Touchstone Medical Imaging center and request your appointment today.