Common Shoulder Injuries (and What You Need To Know to Prevent Them)

Woke up with a stiff shoulder? Felt a sudden pain in the middle of your workout? Whatever caused them, shoulder injuries are an all too common and frustrating part of life.

So, let’s take a deep breath, let those shoulders relax as much as possible and look at the most common shoulder injuries that you might face. We’ll talk about shoulder injury prevention, home remedies for shoulder pain, when you should get to the doctor, and importantly, how to prevent it from happening again.

Here’s your guide to common shoulder injuries and what you need to know to prevent them.

What Are the Three Most Common Shoulder Injuries?

People often mistake neck and shoulder pain due to the area connected by many nerves that are linked closely. After you are sure that you have a shoulder injury, it is time to identify the type of injury. There are three categories that most shoulder injuries will fall into. This includes rotator cuff tears, Superior Labral Anterior and Posterior (SLAP) tears, and dislocation. Keep reading to see what to expect from each one.

Rotator Cuff Tears

Do you swim, play tennis, or love another sport that requires repetitive movement on your shoulder? You’re at risk for a rotator cuff tear. You might feel this all of the sudden or experience a gradual tearing over months.

Superior Labral Anterior and Posterior (SLAP) Tears

SLAP tears are also common in sports but are more often linked to overhead movements like you’d make in baseball or similar sports. Like rotator cuff tears you might experience it suddenly or find that it gets slowly and progressively worse over months. In the case of SLAP tears, a gradual tear is more common.

Shoulder Dislocation and Chronic Instability

When you fall or crash into someone, shoulder dislocations or subluxations (partial dislocations) are possible risks. This is a common injury when you play contact sports. Compared to a tear, this is an entirely different sensation that will be sharply painful and require urgent care. In a small proportion of patients, a sensation of clicking or popping in the shoulder joint may be indicative of posterior instability.

You can do some stretches according to this video by Ray of Health if you’re experiencing frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tears.

How Do I Know If My Shoulder Is Seriously Injured?

When it comes to shoulder injuries the first and most important thing to establish is the severity. If you’re feeling in serious pain and are questioning your injury, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is this pain intense?
  • Is your movement severely limited in your shoulder?
  • Is your shoulder swollen?
  • Did you hear or feel a popping sensation?
  • Do you have numbness or weakness in your arm or fingers?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, it’s time to see a doctor. When it comes to your health, you’re better safe than sorry. No information online can replace the tools and experience that your doctor has.

When you’re feeling intense pain or can’t move your shoulder well, there’s a good chance that you have a tear. Strains and sprains are less common but possible. A sprain will be milder in terms of pain, swelling, and loss of movement. Meanwhile, a strain will give you severe pain, swelling, and loss of movement.

How Long Does a Shoulder Injury Take to Heal?

Every case is different and will depend on your specific injury as well as your age and overall health. Very generally speaking, a mild tear or sprain will heal within a month in most cases. If it’s a more severe injury, it could take up to six months or more to heal.

Proper diagnosis, treatment, and aftercare are central to the healing process so talk to a professional if the pain is severe or long-lasting. The doctor will conduct multiple tests such as MRI and X-ray. You can check out our Chiropractor vs Osteopath vs Physiotherapist article to find your ideal professional.

Read more: The Difference Between Physiotherapy and Orthopaedic Surgery?

How Do I Know What Type of Shoulder Injury I Have?

When you’re experiencing shoulder pain, it’s essential to pay close attention to the symptoms.  They’ll help you decide what kind of shoulder injury you have.

You might have a rotator cuff tear if you feel:

  • Dull, aching pain even when you’re resting your shoulder
  • Increasing pain when you raise your shoulder
  • Pain that makes it hard to sleep at night
  • Weakness that makes it difficult to even raise your arm
  • Clicking or popping sounds or sensations when you move

You might have a SLAP tear if you feel:

  • Popping, grinding or locking sensations
  • Pain that is relieved by not moving your shoulder
  • Feelings of weakness in your biceps muscle
  • A sensation of instability as if your shoulder could pop out of the socket

Important: Remember that shoulder pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. If you have any feelings of chest constriction, difficulty breathing, dizziness, neck/jaw pain, or heavy sweating, see a doctor urgently.

What Is the Best Exercise for a Shoulder Injury?

Having good shoulder mobility reduces the chances of a serious injury. When you have poor shoulder mobility, you will also lack strength, stability and coordination. Therefore, Chiropractors and Orthopaedic doctors recommend shoulder mobility exercises such as F45, HIIT, yoga and pilates. Be sure to do some stretches to prevent muscle cramps in the middle of your workout.

For the best shoulder injury exercises, we heard from Theresa Marko, doctor of physical therapy, and Chad Kuntz, sports physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach. They explained the importance of understanding when not to exercise with a shoulder injury.

If your shoulder is hurt, avoid the following exercises and their variations.

  • NO shoulder presses
  • NO incline chest presses
  • NO planks
  • NO downward dog
  • NO dips

Good exercises for injured shoulders include side-lying external rotation and side-lying shoulder clocks. For both workouts, remember to lie on the slide that’s not hurting.

How to Do a Side-Lying External Rotation

How to Do a Side-Lying Shoulder Clock

How Long Can It Take for a Shoulder Injury to Heal?

When you’re healing from an injury, it’s critical to listen to your body. You can’t just mark a date on your calendar and then go back to your normal routine.

While a mild injury will clear up with a short period of rest, moderate to severe injuries require rehabilitation. A tear can take anywhere from one to six months to heal likewise a sprain or strain can take upwards of six months to be back to normal.

How Do You Rehab a Shoulder Injury?

When you have an injury in your shoulder, the doctor will give you a few common shoulder rehabilitation workouts. Let’s take a look at a couple of the most common shoulder rehab workouts.

Pendulum Exercise for Shoulder Injury

Wand Exercises

Rotator Cuff Exercises

What Exercises Can I Do with a Torn Shoulder Tendon ?

When you’re dealing with a rotator cuff tear, it’s vital to have a physical therapy plan. This is what enables you to get your full range of motion back. Here’s a look at exercises that help heal a torn shoulder tendon.

How to Do Pendulum Swings with a Shoulder Tendon Tear

Remember those pendulum swing workouts from earlier? These are an especially important part of your routine when you have a torn shoulder tendon but people often do them wrong. This can be painful and slow down your healing so let’s take a closer look at how to do pendulum swings.

  1. Stand next to a table, chair, or railing for stability
  2. Put your hand (on the side of your uninjured shoulder) on the stabilising object
  3. Lean forward slighting without rounding your back
  4. Let your arm on the injured side dangle freely
  5. Move your dangling arm back and forth. Repeat until it feels looser
  6. Start again from a dangling position and move your arm from side to side
  7. Start again by moving your arm in small circles. Start in a clockwise motion, then go counterclockwise

Using Resistance Bands to Strengthen Torn Shoulder Tendon

One of the best pieces of workout equipment you can invest in is a resistance band. They come in a variety of different styles and strengths, but often less is more. A simple inexpensive resistance band will help you strengthen a torn shoulder tendon and get back to your old self again.

How to Do Crossover Arm Stretch Exercises with a Shoulder Tendon Tear

How to Do a Standing Row with a Shoulder Tendon Tear

How to Do an Internal Rotation Exercise with a Shoulder Tendon Tear

Now that you know how to treat a shoulder injury and what to look out for when you think you might have hurt your shoulder, it’s time to look forward. Learning the right exercises to prevent shoulder injury and being aware of your risk factors is key to moving forward with a healthy, injury-free life.

Learn anything from this piece? Share this post online to help others heal quickly and stay safe.

Having Persistent Shoulder Issues? Consult an Orthopaedic Doctor in Singapore Today.

Ready to get checked out and start on a path to eliminating pain? To get started, you can book an appointment online with our orthopaedic treatment in Singapore and ask for Dr James Tan. Prefer to chat? Message us on WhatsApp at +65 8028 4572 or call us at +65 6235 8781 or via email

If you’d like to find us directly, visit one of our clinics below:

Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre

3 Mount Elizabeth, #13-14

Singapore 228510

Mount Alvernia Hospital

820 Thomson Road

Medical Centre D #05-60

Singapore 574623

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