The shoulder is made up of several joints, tendons and muscles that allow for a wide range of motion in the arm. Because the shoulder has more mobility than any other joint in the body, the soft tissues and bony structures are vulnerable to injury.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
A shoulder injury and resulting pain can be classified as either acute or chronic. An acute shoulder injury may be the result of excessive use of the shoulder or overhead activities during work or sports that can lead to intense pain. Chronic pain can last for several months or longer and may not be the result of an injury, but rather degenerative changes or repetitive wear and tear due to age.
The majority of shoulder problems fall into four categories:
- Tendon inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or tendon tear
- Instability or dislocation
The four rotator cuff tendons, which help provide shoulder motion and stability, are a frequent source of pain in the shoulder. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that almost 2 million people in the United States visit their doctor because of rotator cuff tears.
Shoulder Pain Evaluation and Treatment
The first step in finding the cause of shoulder pain is a thorough medical history and physical exam by an orthopedic specialist. Most shoulder conditions are aggravated and relieved by specific activities. During your initial visit, your doctor will ask questions about your pain, check for tender areas and test your range of motion and strength.
Diagnostic imaging can also help identify the cause of your pain. Your doctor may order an x-ray to look at the bones in the shoulder joint or an MRI to get a better picture of the ligaments and tendons.
Your physician will most likely recommend nonsurgical treatment options because the majority of shoulder conditions do not require surgery. This may include:
- Rest and activity modification
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
If your shoulder pain does not resolve with conservative treatment options, surgery may be advised. Recurring dislocations, rotator cuff tears, advanced shoulder arthritis or conditions that cause significant weakness and loss of function in your shoulder may require surgical intervention.
At Texas Orthopedics, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons are experts in shoulder surgery including outpatient shoulder arthroscopy, shoulder replacement and reverse shoulder replacement. Most procedures can be performed at Texas Orthopedics Surgery Center, where only orthopedic procedures are performed. This safe, highly specialized environment results in better care and outcomes for our patients.