By Francis M. Smith
Not only is your shoulder one of the most essential joints of the body, allowing you to engage in many important everyday tasks, it's also the most flexible joint. The ball-and-socket configuration of the shoulder allows it a very wide range of motion, enabling you to move your arm back and forth, up and down, and in a circular motion. However, the extreme flexibility of the shoulder joint comes at a cost: your shoulder is more vulnerable to injury than other, more limited joints. Injuries to the shoulder are common in accidents of any sort, from slip and fall accidents to car crashes, because of the natural reflex to put your hands out in front of you to brace against an impact and protect the rest of your body. A sudden impact or twisting force can damage the ligaments of your shoulder, resulting in a painful sprain and putting you at risk of further injury.
Ligaments are the flexible, fibrous tissues that connect one bone to another, allowing the joint to move while keeping it stable. When the ligaments of a joint are torn or damaged, this is called a sprain. Shoulder separation is a type of sprain that commonly results from slip and fall accidents; the ligaments connecting your clavicle (collar bone) to the upper part of your shoulder tear, allowing the clavicle to slide out of position and resulting in severe pain and inability to move your arm normally. In a similar way, if the ligaments securing the ball-and-socket joint of your shoulder (where the humerus, or upper arm bone, joins with the shoulder blade) become damaged, you run the risk of a dislocated shoulder in which the head of the humerus slips out of its socket.