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When people think of the shoulder they generally just think of a ball-and-socket joint made up of the arm bone and the shoulder blade. However, the shoulder is so much more complex with four separate joints and seventeen different muscles. All of these structures work together to make the shoulder one of the most mobile joints in the body. This also means the shoulder is highly susceptible to injury. If you injured your shoulder at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.

The shoulders are very important, and often neglected, parts of your body. Being the most moveable joint, your shoulders help you with everyday tasks. They are also the most unstable joint in the body. The “ball” in the upper arm is actually larger than the socket that holds it. To remain stable, it must be kept in place by muscles, ligaments and tendons. Most problems in the shoulder are not in the bones, but rather involve the muscles, ligaments and tendons. With the range of motion in the shoulder being so great, it is susceptible to injury.

If you have pain in your shoulder it could have many causes. One of the more common causes would be a tear of the labrum. The labrum is a ring of cartilage around the shoulder socket that helps keep the shoulder stable. There are two types of tears that commonly occur here: a Bankart lesion tear and a SLAP lesion tear (superior labral tear from anterior to posterior). Let’s just focus on the Bankart tear for now.

A Bankart tear is a specific injury to the labrum. The shoulder joint is similar to the hip in that is a ‘ball and socket’ joint. Again, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow and unstable. Being unstable just means that the shoulder can more easily come out of the socket. This is where the labrum comes into play. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder cuff uses the labrum cartilage to form a deeper socket for the ball of the top of the arm bone (the humerus) to move within. The labrum does allow for the shoulder joint to be much more stable, yet still allow for a wide of range of movements. In fact, the range of movements of your shoulder far exceeds any other joint in the body.

The stability of the shoulder joint may be compromised when the labrum of the shoulder joint is torn. This type of tear usually occurs when an individual first sustains a shoulder dislocation. As the shoulder pops out of its joint, it often tears the labrum. If the labrum tears, there is not enough cushion between those bones.

The first symptom before all others will be pain. If you also experience any of the following symptoms you may have a shoulder joint tear:

  • Pain during activities requiring mobility of the shoulder or overhead activities
  • Pain in shoulder during sleep or night
  • A sensation in your shoulder that feels like “catching, locking, popping or grinding’
  • Instability in your shoulder
  • Decreased shoulder mobility
  • Decrease in shoulder strength.

A common misconception is that shoulder injuries happen only with athletes. They do, but they can also happen in doing everyday tasks and at work. Jobs requiring manual labor or repetition can often cause injury to the shoulder. Falling on an outstretched arm, a direct hit to the shoulder, a sudden tug on the arm, a sudden pull when lifting heavy object or trying to stop a fall in an overhead reach position are all possible ways of injuring.

For a Bankart tear, there are two treatment options: surgical and non-surgical. The right route of treatment will heavily depend on factors such as age, activity level and level of instability.

Like with any work injury, it is important you notify your work as soon as possible if you injured your shoulder at work.  The next step is to get to a doctor and tell them what happened. Make sure you are clear about your job duties.