(Mild Acute Glenohumeral Ligament Injury)
A shoulder sprain is stretching or partial tearing of the ligaments and capsule that support the shoulder, specifically, the glenohumeral joint. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. The glenohumeral joint is the meeting of the upper arm bone, humerus, and the cup of the shoulder blade.
The major ligaments of the glenohumeral joint are the superior, middle and inferior glenohumeral ligaments, and they serve to stabilize the highly mobile joint. The capsule of the glenohumeral joint is thinner tissue that encloses and supports the shoulder joints.
An acute mild injury to the glenohumeral ligaments can be considered a shoulder sprain. More severe injury can result in dislocation.
Capsule of Glenohumeral Joint
Shoulder sprains involving the glenohumeral joint may be caused by:
- Falling on an outstretched arm
- Forced twisting of the arm
- A blow to the shoulder
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition, or injury. Risk factors for shoulder sprain include:
- Playing sports
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments
- Loose joints or connective tissue disorders
Symptoms of shoulder sprain may include:
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling around the shoulder
- Redness, warmth, or bruising around the shoulder
- Limited ability to move the shoulder and increased pain with movement
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:
- Rest—Avoid using your injured arm.
- Ice—Apply ice or a cold pack to the shoulder for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for at least 2-3 days. This helps reduce pain and swelling. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.
Medication—First consult your doctor if you have any questions about using medications. OTC drugs that are commonly used to help reduce inflammation and pain include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Brace or sling—You may need to wear a sling to immobilize your arm and shoulder. If you play sports, you may need to wear a shoulder brace when you return to play.
- Rehabilitation exercises—Begin exercises to restore flexibility, range of motion, and strength in your shoulder as recommended by your healthcare professional. Sometimes electrical stimulation is used to aid recovery.
- Surgery—is not always needed to repair a mild shoulder sprain without instability or dysfunction. In certain athletes, earlier surgery may be considered to avoid recurrent injury.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org .
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. Philadelphia; Elsevier; 2003. Ch. 21.
Micheo WF, Ramos E. Frontera: Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation . 1st ed. Philadelphia; Hanley and Belfus; 2002. Ch. 15.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/ .
Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care . Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
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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