What are Shoulder Ligaments?
Shoulder ligaments are fibrous connective tissue bands that connect the bones of the shoulder joint to each other.
The main shoulder ligaments are:
- Glenohumeral ligaments (GHL): These ligaments connect the bone of the upper arm to a part of the shoulder blade. It provides stability to the shoulder.
- Coracoacromial ligaments (CAL): These ligaments connect two parts of the shoulder blade (acromion and coracoid process). Thickening of these ligaments can cause impingement syndrome.
- Coracoclavicular ligaments (CCL): These ligaments connect the scapula to the clavicle. It is extremely strong and helps to keep your shoulder square.
- Transverse humeral ligament (THL): This ligament helps keep the long head of the biceps in place.
Function of Shoulder Ligaments
The functions of the shoulder ligaments are:
- Limiting movement of the bones within the joint
- Stabilizing the shoulder
- Preventing shoulder dislocation
Causes of Shoulder Ligament Tears
Shoulder ligament tears may occur due to:
- Direct trauma to the shoulder
- Repetitive overhead arm movements
- Degenerative joint disease of the shoulder
Types of Shoulder Ligament Tears
Shoulder ligament tears may be classified as:
- Grade 1: Microscopic or very small tear in the shoulder ligament
- Grade 2: Partial or incomplete tear of the shoulder ligament
- Grade 3: Complete tear of the shoulder ligament
Symptoms of a Shoulder Ligament Tear
Common symptoms of a shoulder ligament tear are:
- Shoulder pain and swelling
- Increased pain with arm movement or shrugging your shoulder
- Distortion in the normal contour of the shoulder
Diagnosis of Shoulder Ligament Tears
A diagnosis of a shoulder ligament tear will be based on
- History of symptoms
- Comparing your injured shoulder with the uninjured one
- Physical examination of the shoulder, including range of motion and strength testing
- X-ray to identify any bone abnormalities
- MRI to identify soft tissue abnormalities
Treatment of Shoulder Ligament Tears
The treatment for your shoulder ligament tear will depend on the severity of the injury:
- In case the shoulder ligament tear is microscopic or very small (Grade1), the condition can be treated with rest, ice and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication to relieve painful symptoms.
- In case of a partially torn shoulder ligament tear (Grade 2), a sling may be worn for 3-4 weeks in addition to the above treatment measures to allow for proper healing of the shoulder ligament.
- In case of a completely severed shoulder ligament tear (Grade 3), surgical repair may be required to reattach the ligament. Most often, the surgery can be performed arthroscopically through small poke-hole incisions in an outpatient setting and you can return home on the same day as the procedure.