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Acute Shoulder Injuries in Adults

of Dr.ssa Lauren Meryl Simon, Dr.ssa Van Nguyen, Dr.ssa Ngozi Margarete Ezinwa • April 2024
Acute shoulder pain lasting less than six months is a common presentation to the primary care office. Shoulder injuries can involve any of the four shoulder joints, rotator cuff, neurovascular structures, clavicle or humerus fractures, and contiguous anatomy. Most acute shoulder injuries are the result of a fall or direct trauma in contact and collision sports. The most common shoulder pathologies seen in primary care are acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joint disease and rotator cuff injury. It is important to conduct a comprehensive history and physical examination to identify the mechanism of injury, localize the injury, and determine if surgical intervention is needed. Most patients with acute shoulder injuries can be treated conservatively using a sling for comfort and participating in a targeted musculoskeletal rehabilitation program. Surgery may be considered for treating middle third clavicle fractures and type III acromioclavicular sprains in active individuals, first-time glenohumeral dislocation in young athletes, and those with full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Surgery is indicated for types IV, V, and VI acromioclavicular joint injuries or displaced or unstable proximal humerus fractures. Urgent surgical referral is indicated for posterior sternoclavicular dislocations.

(Am Fam Physician. 2023; 107(5):503-512. Copyright © 2023 American Academy of Family Physicians.)

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