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At Vail-Summit Orthopaedics our specialty-trained shoulder doctors are the leading experts in assessing, diagnosing, and treating shoulder injuries and conditions.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, comprised of a system of muscles and ligaments connecting the clavicle (collar bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and humerus (upper arm bone).

It is the most versatile joint with the widest range of motion in the human body, and its complex structure allows for a tremendous amount of flexibility. However, this wide range of motion also introduces an increased vulnerability to injury.

Typically, shoulder pain can be identified as the result of one of four root causes: instability, arthritis, inflammation, or fractures.

Shoulder instability occurs when the shoulder joint becomes dislocated (the head of the humerus is forced out of the socket). Whether the result of a sudden injury or from overuse, each time the shoulder is dislocated the ligaments are stretched, making the shoulder increasingly more susceptible to repeat episodes.

Shoulder arthritis is the result of wear-and-tear of the cartilage within the shoulder joint. When the layer of cartilage within the shoulder joint wears away, the bones being to rub against one another, causing inflammation and discomfort.

Shoulder inflammation, often regarded as shoulder bursitis, can be considered an overuse injury. Inflammation of the shoulder is characterized by swelling of the bursa between the rotator cuff and the top of the scapula. Overuse (excessive or repetitive motions) of the shoulder is generally the cause of shoulder inflammation.

Shoulder fractures are the result of traumatic incidents, such as an automobile accident or other traumatic blow to the joint. Most commonly affecting the clavicle, scapula, and upper humerus, shoulder fractures often do not require surgery.

It may be time to seek treatment with a shoulder specialist if you are experiencing the following symptoms of a shoulder condition or injury:

  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Inability to reach overhead without pain
  • Shoulder pain that disrupts sleep or keeps you awake at night
  • A popping or grinding sensation when using the afflicted shoulder

Shoulder pain can disrupt your lifestyle and significantly reduce your quality of life. So whether you’re suffering from a recent injury, such as a rotator cuff tear, or from chronic pain, such as shoulder arthritis, our shoulder doctors at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics understand the urgency behind your desire for pain relief.

At Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, our shoulder doctors are committed to developing customized treatment plans to accommodate your individual condition and get you back to your active lifestyle quickly and safely.

To consult with a shoulder doctor at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, please request an appointment online.

Patient Education Videos

Why choose Vail-Summit Orthopaedics?

With years of experience and advanced training devoted to the orthopaedic care of the shoulder, our esteemed shoulder specialists at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics are unparalleled experts in accurately diagnosing and effectively treating shoulder injuries and conditions.

Our shoulder doctors, Dr. Richard Cunningham, Dr. Erik Dorf, and Dr. William Sterett, have the knowledge, proficiency, and skill to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your shoulder injury or condition so you can get back to your active lifestyle quickly and safely.

To consult with a Vail-Summit Orthopaedics shoulder doctor, please request an appointment online.

Tips for Healthy Joints

As the connections between your bones, joints will sustain a certain amount of wear and tear as we age. Remaining pain- and arthritis-free requires practicing good joint preservation techniques. The following techniques will help you to treat your joints with care as they age.


Every day, move each joint through its full range of motion to sustain mobility and freedom from pain. Make sure your movements are slow and gentle to avoid injury, and be careful not to overextend.


Be sure to extend and flex your joints in the manner for which they are intended. Avoid overextending or stressful positions as well as techniques that could put you at risk for injury.


The manner in which you carry your body has a significant impact on whether your joints will remain pain-free. Practice good posture by adjusting work spaces to your specifications. Avoid back pain by picking items up using your legs, not your lower back. When carrying heavy objects, be sure to cradle the items close to your body.

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Favor the larger joints. Use the weaker joints for duties only they can handle. Using your hands, carry objects palm open to help distribute weight equally over your forearm. If available, make use of surfaces around you. Instead of lifting an object, slide the object across a surface like a table or workbench.

Stay Active

Avoid keeping your joints in the same position for a prolonged period of time. This will help to keep your joints from becoming stiff. In situations where this cannot be avoided, such as car rides, take a break every hour to stretch and adjust your seating position.