ZocdocAnswersDid I strain or tear my shoulder?

Question

Did I strain or tear my shoulder?

I am a CNA and work in a hospital. 3 days ago, while lifting, turning, and cleaning patients, I noticed a sharp almost crackling feeling in my left upper shoulder. Sharp pain started down my arm. I continued to work, thinking it was just over use of my shoulder from a injury 2 years ago of a dislocated shoulder. But the pain got worse and worse. Finally on a last patient, my shoulder gave off a very sharp pain and went limp. Extreme amounts of pain have followed. I can't sleep, I can't rest, the pain is always there. A never ending, sharp, throbbing pain even at rest. I'm lucky to even get 4 hours of sleep a night, the pain keeps waking me up. Extending my arm or lifting above my head is next to impossible! I use hot and cool packs on and off while taking a muscle relaxer and pain meds to help, but it doesn't help. Nothing allows me to have some relief. I go see an ortho tomorrow to have it looked at even further. Is my injury nothing more than a strain or is it a tear?

Answer

I am sorry to hear about your injury. It sounds like the pain is quite severe and is significantly affecting your normal activities. I am glad you have scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, as it is not possible to provide an accurate diagnosis without performing a full shoulder exam. The surgeon will also be able to determine what additional tests you might need, such as an x-ray or MRI. Injuries to the shoulder, especially during activity, can include rotator cuff tears. These are injuries to a group of four shoulder muscles, including the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and deltoid. Different exam maneuvers can help determine which specific one is injured, which is why you need to see an orthopedic surgeon. Typically, an MRI is required to determine if you have a strain versus tear. You may have suffered an injury to the cartilage lining the head of the humerus, and you may also have injured the labrum, or cartilage lining the joint. Your history of shoulder dislocation puts you at higher risk for repeat dislocation and injury, which may have happened this time. Dislocation can even cause small fractures of the joint. I encourage you to raise these concerns with your orthopedic surgeon.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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