Christmas is coming, and for many, the holiday is a time to decorate and get everything in order.
Some will lift boxes of decorations from the ground or reach for them overhead. Others will extend their arms to put up the old Christmas tree just before the 24th.
Unfortunately, with all the lifting and overhead reaching merry-makers are likely to perform, injuries are bound to surface. It’s no wonder we at Academy Orthopedics see our fair share of shoulder pain and back strain complaints during the holidays.
If you’ve sustained injuries from your holiday preparations, reach out to an orthopedic doctor near you. Schedule an appointment with us if you experience any of the following Christmas injuries in GA.
What Kind of Injuries Occur Over the Christmas Holidays and Why?
Various types of injuries are prevalent during the holiday season. From what we’ve observed, we can categorize these injuries into two types.
Sudden Injury That Causes Pain
Sometimes, people may have lingering joint maladies that can compound and progress over time. All it takes for these joint and bone issues to escalate into a full-blown injury is one improper movement. When this occurs, an individual can sustain a sudden injury.
For the most part, these injuries occur in areas where cartilage decreases with age. Except for the knees, these areas include the ball-and-socket joints like the shoulder joint.
After normal activities like repetitive overhead motions, a person can develop sudden shoulder pain and require immediate attention.
Injury From a Sudden Fall
The first types of injuries are fall-related. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries from falls affect people ages 24 to 49. Based on the same statistics, most emergency department reports reflect that the accidents occurred during decorating or other holiday-related activities.
Joint injuries are some of the most common acute and sudden fall injuries. However, not all joint injuries are the same. Some are treatable with more conservative treatments like physical therapy. Others will require more invasive treatments like cortisone injections or surgery.
Tendonitis is an inflammation of the regions that connect bones to muscles. Tendonitis happens in joints with a skeletal muscle connection. However, the condition is most common in the elbows and shoulders.
Those with tendonitis in the shoulder and elbows may not experience pain for a few weeks, feeling no more than a dull ache or two. However, after a person performs repeated pulling and overhead movements, their elbow and shoulder pain becomes severe to the point of stiffness.
Besides experiencing shoulder pain or pain in the elbows, patients will complain of difficulty raising the arm and shrugging. In extreme cases, severe pain prevents overhead and pressing movements altogether, requiring anti-inflammatories and cortisone shots.
Rotator Cuff Tears
The rotator cuff is a collection of tendons and muscles that encapsulate the shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles keep the upper arm bone and the scapula in place to stabilize the shoulder for overhead movement. Rotator cuff tears are injuries to any or all of the rotator cuff tendons and can cause severe shoulder pain and weakness.
A torn rotator cuff can happen after repetitive overhead motions like retrieving a box of decorations or hanging mistletoe. Over time, repeatedly raising the arms overhead can cause overuse injuries in the rotator cuff muscles. The resulting overuse injuries cause inflammation in the surrounding structures of the shoulder, causing shoulder pain and reduced range of motion.
A rotator cuff tear doesn’t always require surgery. Sometimes, patients can alleviate the symptoms by resting, icing, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy for the shoulder.
On the other hand, a torn rotator cuff can cause significant pain and weakness of the shoulder and lead to a further deterioration of the shoulder joint’s health. Surgery may be necessary when the rotator cuff tear becomes so severe that a patient cannot move the shoulder in its full axis of rotation. Surgical interventions can include arthroscopic surgery or open shoulder surgery.
Joint pain isn’t really an injury or orthopedic condition. It’s one of many symptoms patients experience when their joints develop inflammation. Joint pain also surfaces whenever a joint bends beyond its normal range of motion. For instance, a person may experience severe pain in the elbow after reaching too far out for a heavy pitcher of Christmas punch.
Joint pain is also indicative of an overuse injury. For instance, someone who’s busy decorating may experience shoulder pain from repeated overhead reaching.
Joint pain may indicate swelling, which is treatable with ice, rest, and compression. However, it may be time to consult an orthopedic doctor when severe pain prevents movement.
Sprained Shoulder or Knee
A sprained shoulder or knee can be the result of excessive rotation or bending. In the case of the shoulder joint, sprains happen when the shoulder suddenly rotates forward or too far back. Situations that can cause a sprained shoulder can include reaching back or a sudden fall.
Sprains of the knee occur when a person turns while the foot stays in place. For instance, a person who shovels snow for the holidays may have one foot buried in ice. A sudden turn can cause shearing along the knee joint and the surrounding tendons and ligaments.
As a result, the ligaments and tendons can tear, causing a person to experience pain. In the worst-case scenario, sprained knees can lead to rotation fractures or dislocations.
The treatment for sprained shoulders will depend on the severity of the injury. If an orthopedic doctor sees a patient experiencing shoulder pain, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and other nonsurgical treatments to manage shoulder pain. However, a medical professional may order surgery if the injury is significant enough based on a through exam and imaging tests.
A shoulder injury can take many forms, ranging from a rotator cuff tear to dislocation to labral injury. Whichever type of shoulder injury patients experience, the symptoms will be similar. In particular, patients with shoulder injuries can experience shoulder pain and decreased range of motion in the affected shoulder.
In the case of shoulder dislocation, patients can expect other symptoms. These include shoulder instability and shoulder weakness.
Some of the warning signs of a shoulder injury include pain and swelling in the affected shoulder. Besides pain and swelling, a weakness and stiffness can be present.
The treatment for shoulder pain varies greatly because not all injuries have the same cause. To determine the cause of the injury, a medical professional will order imaging tests like X-rays and MRI scans. From here, an orthopedic doctor creates a diagnosis and prescribes appropriate medication and treatment.
The treatment options for shoulder injuries can include conservative treatments like medications and physical therapy. A physician will refer patients to an orthopedic surgeon for more severe cases for surgical management.
A frozen shoulder — otherwise known as adhesive capsulitis — is a shoulder condition that causes pain and stiffness. This injury occurs in stages. The first stage is the freezing stage. During this stage, patients begin to feel pain with no inhibitions in the range of motion. However, past the frozen stage, a frozen shoulder leads to decreased range of motion, becoming debilitating if left untreated.
A frozen shoulder can become a major issue for patients. At their worst, frozen shoulders can lead to debilitating shoulder pain and stiffness, causing disability in more than 20% of patients afflicted with the injury.
Treating a frozen shoulder involves reducing inflammation. Range-of-motion exercises to restore joint mobility will also be among the nonsurgical treatments for frozen shoulders.
If nonsurgical interventions fail, a doctor may recommend shoulder surgery.
A SLAP (superior labrum anterior and posterior) tear is a shoulder injury in the labrum or the top part of the shoulder joint. Patients with SLAP tears often develop this injury due to throwing injuries, falls and occasionally over use.
Besides shoulder pain, SLAP tears can also affect the biceps. This is because the long head of the bicep tendon attaches to the labrum. Any labrum inflammation will radiate to the bicep, causing patients to feel pain in the upper arms.
SLAP tears are complicated. For this reason, patients who suspect SLAP tears must see a shoulder specialist for effective management.
Don’t Give Your Shoulder Pain the Cold Shoulder This Holiday Season
If you’re dealing with shoulder pain or any other type of pain in your joints, don’t delay. It may be a sign for you to see an orthopedic doctor or shoulder specialist.
Seek expert medical advice and see an orthopedic doctor with a wealth of experience managing joint injuries in GA.
If you’re looking for a doctor to see for a shoulder injury, don’t hesitate to reach out. Schedule an appointment with us today by calling (770) 271-9857.