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Pitcher's Shoulder

Pitcher's Shoulder is a tearing and swelling of the rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that hold the upper arm in the shoulder joint).

Causes of Pitcher's Shoulder

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula.

Pitcher's Shoulder often occurs in sports that require the arm to be moved over the head repeatedly, such as pitching in baseball, lifting heavy weights over the shoulder, serving the ball in racket sports, and swimming freestyle, butterfly, or backstroke. Repeatedly moving the arm over the head causes the top of the arm bone to rub against part of the shoulder joint and its tendons, tearing individual fibers. If the movement is continued despite the pain, the tendon can tear or actually pull off part of the bone.

Symptoms of Pitcher's Shoulder

With Pitcher's Shoulder you may have pain, tenderness, and swelling in your shoulder. At first you may only have pain while you are lifting your arm over your head and moving your arm forward. Later you may even have pain when you move your arm forward to shake hands. You will probably have pain when you push an object away but not when you pull it toward you. Or, you may have pain at rest.

  • Pain associated with arm movement
  • Pain in the shoulder at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Weakness with raising the arm above the head, or pain with overhead activities (brushing hair, reaching for objects on shelves, etc.)

Treatment of Pitcher's Shoulder

The injured shoulder should be rested from the activities that caused the problem and from activities that cause pain.

Ice packs applied to the shoulder and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will help reduce inflammation and pain.

Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff should be started. If the pain persists or if therapy is not possible because of severe pain, a steroid injection may reduce pain and inflammation enough to allow effective therapy.

If the rotator cuff has sustained a complete tear, or if the symptoms persist despite conservative therapy, surgery may be necessary. Arthroscopic surgery can remove bone spurs and inflamed tissue around the shoulder. Small tears can be treated with arthroscopic surgery although larger tears require open surgery through a larger incision to repair the torn tendon.



This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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