The shoulder is a complex joint which relies on the surrounding soft tissue structures for stability and strength. These structures include the four muscles of the rotator cuff, as well as the biceps tendon ligaments, and scapular muscles.
Shoulder pain with rest or movement, or general shoulder instability are common symptoms of strains or tears of any of these soft tissue structures. In most cases your history of symptoms along with thorough physical examination by an experienced sports medicine orthopedist can substantiate a diagnosis. Due to the complexity of the shoulder joint, special tests have been designed to isolate different shoulder problems. These tests which can be performed during and examination, along with a MRI and or MRI arthrogram can confirm the diagnosis of a shoulder injury.
Equally as important in making the correct diagnosis, is your physician’s ability to prescribe the correct rehabilitation program. The goal of the rehabilitation program, restoration of function, is the same for each diagnosis, but the rehabilitation program starting point is widely variable depending on the type of diagnosis (rotator cuff tear, ligament tear), the type of treatment (non-operative vs surgical post operative), and other associated problems (inflexibilities, strengths deficits). This point reinforces the need for a complete and accurate diagnosis as a starting point for rehabilitation.