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What Is a Shoulder Sprain?

A shoulder sprain occurs when a supporting ligament is overly stretched or torn, potentially allowing the bones within the joint to dislocate or separate. Usually, this type of injury arises when an arm is raised to shoulder level and excessive backward force is applied. Common causes include direct trauma to a shoulder and a fall onto an outstretched arm.

Shoulder sprain types and symptoms

Based on the nature and extent of the ligament damage, a shoulder sprain may be classified as a:

  • Grade 1 sprain – The ligaments are stretched or partially torn, but the bones have not separated. Mild pain and swelling can result and possibly interfere with daily activities, such as putting on a shirt or jacket.
  • Grade 2 sprain – The ligaments are fully torn, causing moderate pain and swelling.
  • Grade 3 sprain – The shoulder joint is completely dislocated. This can lead to severe pain, swelling and bruising.

How is a shoulder sprain treated?

The treatment approach for a shoulder sprain can vary based on the severity of the injury. For instance:

  • Grade 1 and 2 shoulder sprains are usually treated with rest, ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve pain and swelling. To promote healing, a sling may be worn for a few weeks to immobilize the affected arm.
  • Grade 3 shoulder sprains may require minimally invasive (arthroscopic) surgery or, if the damage is very severe, a traditional open procedure. For instance, when performing a surgical procedure known as a closed reduction, a surgeon can carefully slip a displaced collarbone back into its proper position. After surgery, the injured shoulder will be immobilized with a “clavicle strap” or figure-eight splint, along with a sling that will be worn for several weeks.

At Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, our orthopedic shoulder specialists offer a full range of conservative and surgical treatment options for shoulder sprains. We typically begin with a conservative approach, then closely monitor the patient’s progress and modify his or her treatment plan as necessary. Patients who require surgery are in good hands with our board-certified and double-board-certified surgeons, who are experienced in performing arthroscopic joint and rotator cuff repairs, shoulder stabilization procedures, minimally invasive shoulder replacements and Latarjet procedures.

To request an appointment at any of our orthopedic clinics throughout the Houston, Texas, area, contact us today.