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The most mobile joint in the body is the shoulder, a complex part of the physique. While this factor allows for a wide range of motion and athletic ability, the toll the shoulder takes also makes it more prone to injury. As a part of sports, athletes often need to make aggressive, repetitive, overhead movements, or in other cases need to take impact to the shoulder or shoulders while participating in contact sports. These activities can put your shoulder at risk for injury. 

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain or significant injury, we can help assess your injury and determine the best treatment for you.

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Common shoulder injuries that cause shoulder instability 

There are different types of shoulder injuries that may require unique treatments or surgical techniques to restore your strength, stability and range of motion, and to eliminate your pain. Dr. Porter’s experience working with athletes who have experienced a shoulder injury encompasses treatments ranging from pain management to physical therapy to necessary surgery needed to help patients recover and regain their full use of their shoulder.

Rotator cuff injuries 

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold the head of the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff helps you lift and rotate your arm and stabilizes the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff tear, when one or more of these tendons become damaged or injured, can be partial or quite severe, involving a severed tendon. Damage to the rotator cuff may come from an injury or impact, but it is much more common in the field of athletics. Typically a rotator cuff tear is due to repetitive stress from arm motions required of a sport, such as throwing a ball, weightlifting, serving, swimming, or other actions. 

Common signs of a rotator cuff tear

  • Pain in the area that may worsen at night or when sleeping on the affected side
  • Weakness in the affected arm and shoulder
  • A cracking sensation in the shoulder
  • Limited ability to move your arm or perform usual activities

A rotator cuff tear can be treated over a period of months with physical therapy and other treatments to reduce pain and swelling and return strength and functionality. However, if treatments don’t improve persistent pain or weakness in your shoulder, surgery may be required to return your shoulder to full function. Recovery takes 4-6 months depending on the severity of the injury.

Shoulder dislocation

The bone is pushed completely out of the groove in a shoulder dislocation injury. Caused by a pull, fall, or another injury, shoulder dislocation stretches or damages the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that keep the shoulder joint in place. 

Common signs of a shoulder dislocation

  • Pain in the upper arm and shoulder
  • Inability to move the joint.
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Deformity of the shoulder/shoulder visibly out of place

To treat a dislocated shoulder, the bone will need to be moved back into place. This is 
followed by splinting, medication to reduce pain and swelling, and rehabilitation with 
physical therapy to regain full functionality. Surgery is not typically required unless the ligaments are severely damaged.

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Shoulder impingement

Also known as swimmers’ shoulder, tennis shoulder, or rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement is the inflammation or partial tear of the tendons of the shoulder joint. This is one of the most common causes of pain in the shoulder, typically caused by the repetitive overhead arm motions made by athletes. 

Signs of shoulder impingement

  • Pain and tenderness of the shoulder or front of shoulder while at rest 
  • Weakness of the arm 
  • Difficulty in raising the hand overhead
  • Pain when lifting or lowering the arm or when reaching

Treating shoulder impingement is usually done by modifying activity, utilizing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and swelling, and physical therapy. In the case of loose or torn ligaments, surgery may be required. Dr. Porter uses minimally invasive arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair the damage. Recovery takes 4-6 months depending on the severity of the injury.

Dr. Porter Explains A Post Operative Shoulder Procedure

Dr. Porter Explains A Post Operative Shoulder Procedure

Labral and SLAP tears 

The bones of your shoulder are stabilized by a ring of cartilage called the labrum, which is where the ligaments that keep your bones in place are attached. A labral tear may affect the stability of your shoulder, causing pain, weakness, or change in mobility. 

A SLAP tear is a type of labral tear. SLAP stands for “superior labrum anterior to posterior.” The SLAP tear is at the top of the labrum, where the biceps tendon is attached and may include damage to the biceps as well.

Signs of a labral or SLAP tear

  • Locking, popping, catching, or grinding when you move your shoulder
  • Pain moving the shoulder or raising the arm overhead
  • Weakened shoulder strength.
  • A feeling as if the shoulder will "pop out of joint"
  • Reduced range of motion.
  • Pain at night

If the tear isn’t severe, it may be treated non-surgically, using ice, physical therapy, medication to reduce pain and swelling, and other treatments. It will take a period of months to recover fully, but many tears do not heal well on their own. More serious tears require surgery, usually minimally-invasive arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Recovery takes 4-6 months, depending on the severity of the tear.

When is shoulder surgery required?

Dr. Porter will always begin with conservative options and treatments. He will explore and exhaust these methods before undergoing surgery. This process includes understanding and properly diagnosing your pain and using physical therapy to help you regain function. However, if the injury is severe enough or physical therapy and other treatments are not enough to restore your strength and agility, Dr. Porter will perform minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to achieve successful results and help you regain your athleticism. 

During arthroscopic shoulder surgery, Dr. Porter uses a miniature camera and tiny instruments to repair injuries of the shoulder joint. The small incisions cause less pain and result in a faster recovery time for patients.

Recovery after shoulder surgery

Recovery time varies depending on the complexity of the surgery required and the original damage to the shoulder. In many cases, the surgery can be performed using local anesthetic, which allows you to return home the same day.

To achieve full healing, recovery will take 4-6 months. During this time, your arm will be placed in a sling to keep it immobilized for the first 4-6 weeks. This is an important part of ensuring you heal correctly and thus avoid future stiffness and pain. During the first month, you will also be working with a physical therapist to rebuild your strength and flexibility in your arm.

Once the sling is removed, you will continue physical therapy and other exercises to increase your range of motion and strength. After about four months, you can usually begin more strenuous exercise and start doing sport-specific activities if you’re an athlete. Most athletes typically return to their sport after six months.

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Why choose Dr. David Porter?

Dr. David Porter is an experienced, board-certified, orthopedic surgeon who understands the importance of your active lifestyle and knows how hard it can be to suffer an injury as an athlete or highly active individual. Dr. Porter specializes in sports medicine, treating a range of injuries including any concerns with the shoulder. Dr. Porter is focused on non-invasive, and when needed, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques for the treatment of sports-related injuries.

With an impressive training background, including a fellowship in sports medicine, Brian Porter has been the doctor for professional hockey, football, and basketball teams. He is known for his friendly professionalism and outstanding outcomes with patients.

Read More About Dr. Porter

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