Shoulder strains, shoulder contusions: why is the shoulder so vulnerable to injury?

shoulder stretch

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. It allows the arm to be raised above the head, moved in a circle, brought closer together and further apart. The disadvantage of this mobility is that it is prone to injuries. The pain may occur gradually or suddenly, causing mild or serious discomfort. We will show the possible causes of shoulder strains and shoulder contusions.

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Causes of shoulder strains

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three main bones: the humerus, the clavicle, and the scapula. Heavy manual labour and exercising can cause shoulder strains. As a result of increased physical activity, the muscles can be easily damaged, and continuous pressure on the joint can lead to micro-injuries. Poor sleep is also a problem. The head is often not in the correct position, and this affects the neck and the shoulder as well. The muscles around the shoulder can seize up or get injured.

Certain diseases can also result in pain that extends all the way to the shoulders. This includes problems with the cervical spine, the liver, the heart, or the gallbladder. Aging, especially over the age of 60, is also likely to cause shoulder problems. The reason is that the soft tissues surrounding the shoulder degenerate with age.

Muscle injuries: strains, contusions

During a muscle injury, the structure of the muscle is damaged to excess forces. Depending on the extent of the injury, moving the muscle can become difficult. Worst case, the patient is unable to move that particular limb. What is the difference between a strain and a contusion?


Strains occur when the muscle is subjected to excessive stress, which makes the muscle cramp. Compared to simple muscle soreness, this causes greater pain. Strains are accompanied by muscle stiffness, swelling, and muscle weakness. You might not be able to stretch the damaged muscle, and you might still feel pain when the muscle is resting, which is accompanied by weakness.


When a contusion occurs, the body part or muscle is injured by a blunt object or excessive force. It is most often caused by a blow or fall. This puts so much pressure on the muscle that the muscle structure gets torn, often accompanied by intense pain. The most common symptom is swelling, which can appear without a wound, but it can cause even more serious injuries. At first, contusions turn red, then within a few hours, they turn blue and later dark purple. When they are healing, they turn yellow, and then green.

Frozen shoulder syndrome

It may be a simple strain or overuse, but persistent pain often indicates a more serious problem. Frozen shoulder syndrome is often mistakenly identified as a strain or inflammation due to its symptoms. And since it is treated according to these symptoms, it can take a long time for specialists to find the real problem behind the pain.

Frozen shoulder syndrome is a chronic inflammatory disease of the shoulder and the soft tissues surrounding it. The connective tissues can thicken from 3-4 mm to 1-2 cm, and their rigid, inflexible state limits the mobility of the joint. A further aggravating factor is a fact that the patient tries to rest the affected limb as much as possible. Frozen shoulder syndrome most commonly affects women between the ages of 40 and 50, but it can occur earlier as well. Predisposing factors include diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment is mostly conservative, i.e., non-surgical, during which your doctor uses more gentle methods. Anti-inflammatory and pain medicines or injections can help, but physiotherapy is also important. Although it takes a long time to heal, about 2 years, manual therapy can speed it up, make it easier.

Treatment of shoulder strains

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Home remedies

The simplest treatment option is icing. It is important to know that hot compresses can only be used after the swelling has gone down, otherwise, it does more harm than good. You should also make sure not to put the ice or heat compress directly on the skin. It is recommended to put at least one towel between your skin and the compress.

Rest the injured part, but don’t avoid using your shoulders for more than a few days. Otherwise, due to the lack of exercise, the muscle doesn’t rebuild correctly. You can buy non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams in every pharmacy without a prescription. It is important to know that you shouldn’t use compression bandages (covering bandages or retention bandages) on the shoulders after applying creams. This is because larger amounts of the active ingredients enter the circulation than needed. There is an increased risk of side effects such as nausea, indigestion, stomach and abdominal pain. Some ingredients may cause photosensitivity, therefore sunbathing and using a tanning bed are not recommended for two weeks at least.

Another treatment option is to use muscle relaxer creams and to get a massage for more effective results. Massage is a great choice because it helps to relax the muscle and to speed up circulation, so healing is faster. When using muscle relaxer creams, choose natural products, and, if possible, choose a product that doesn’t have any side effects!

Treating shoulder contusions with herb extracts

An herb called arnica contains compounds that inhibit platelet aggregation the inflammation of tissues. Due to its properties, it’s particularly effective in the treatment of bruises caused by contusions. It is recommended to use an herbal cream 3 times a day. Don’t use it around the eyes, mouth, and open wounds, and it’s not recommended for children under the age of 3. It is also important to know that these creams can cause dermatitis in more sensitive people. For shoulder contusions, horse chestnut, comfrey, and witch hazel cream are also effective.

Physical examination

If the symptoms don’t improve, or get worse within a few days, see a doctor! It is also recommended to consult a specialist if the injured, painful area is too extensive. In such cases, instead of using creams, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate medication.

During the examination, the specialist learns about your medical history and examines you. He or she examines the swelling and assesses the range of motion in the limb and the stability of the joints. With radiographic testing, such as X-rays or MRIs, a detailed picture can be taken of your shoulder, which helps to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will also ask you some questions to determine the cause of your shoulder pain.

The importance of prevention

One of the most common sports injuries is muscle strain, which can be effectively prevented by a thorough warm-up session before a workout and stretching afterwards. After exercising, a warm shower can also help relax your muscles. Replenishing magnesium levels is extremely important since muscle cramps can develop if you’re magnesium deficient. Pay attention to taking supplements especially in the summer months: sweating depletes the body’s magnesium levels, causing more muscle injuries.

In this article, you could read about the causes and treatment options for shoulder strains. Pain can be quite uncomfortable, but it also signals other problems, which you should never ignore.

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