I often get asked by patients to describe their injuries. It is hard for many people to look at their MRI and to understand what they are looking at. Here are a few examples of very common shoulder problems.
This is by far the most common shoulder problem I see. As you can see in the picture, the long head of the bicep tendon has to curve sharply as it enters the shoulder. This is one of the only tendons in the body that bends at a sharp angle. It probably explains why people get irritation and swelling on the portion of the tendon that rubs on the "corner" of the shoulder. This causes a sharp pain in the front of the shoulder. The pain can radiate down into the bicep muscle and occasionally into the forearm.
Rotator Cuff Tear:
This is probably the second most common injury of the shoulder I see. The deep layer of shoulder muscles is called the rotator cuff. People can tear one or more of these tendons leading to pain and weakness. Patients describe this pain as a sharp or achy pain that emanates from the lateral side of the shoulder.
The long head of the bicep tendon attaches to the top of the shoulder socket. It looks a bit like the trunk of a tree with a flared out base that attaches to the rim, also known as the labrum of the shoulder. When the "roots" of the tree are torn, this is called a superior labrum anterior to posterior (SLAP) injury. Injuries of the bicep and labrum complex can feel like a deep pain that radiates down the front of the shoulder.