Shoulder FAQ


Shoulder pain is a common ailment of many people, although the incidence of pain tends to increase with age. This pain can be caused by a number of different shoulder conditions, and can be acute or chronic, and caused by injury or overuse. Damage or injury may occur within the muscles,ligaments,tendons and bones. Patients may experience stiffness, pain, loss of strength, limited range of motion and other debilitating symptoms.

Some of the most common shoulder conditions include:

In order to determine the cause of your pain, your doctor will ask for details about your symptoms and medical history, and also perform a physical examination to evaluate the shoulder. An X-ray or CT scan may also be performed in order to examine the bones and soft tissues of the shoulder.

The best treatment for shoulder pain depends on the location and cause of the pain. Your doctor will help decide which treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition. Many shoulder conditions can be effectively treated through nonsurgical methods such as rest, applying ice or heat, stretching, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.

Some patients with severe shoulder conditions may require surgery, but most of these procedures can be performed through arthroscopy. Surgery is often successful in repairing shoulder problems and restoring function and strength to the joint.

Bursitis or tendonitis is the most common diagnosis of shoulder pain and involves inflammation of a certain part of the shoulder joint, causing a set of symptoms known as impingement. Impingement occurs when the tendons become inflamed and become pinched by the bone every time they are moved. These symptoms can affect the rotator cuff tendons or the bursa, and they may cause pain on the outside of the shoulder and upper arm, pain while sleeping and pain when lifting the arms.

Many cases of bursitis can be effectively treated with anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone injections to reduce pain and inflammation. More severe cases or those that do not respond to conservative treatments may require surgery.

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that support the shoulder joint and allow for a complete range of motion, while keeping the ball of the arm within the shoulder socket. These tendons and muscles can become torn or damaged from injury or overuse, leading to pain, weakness and inflammation in the shoulder and down the side of the arm.

Patients with a rotator cuff injury should see their orthopedic surgeon right away to make early treatment decisions and prevent permanent damage from occurring. Repair for a rotator cuff injury can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication,steroid injections and physical therapy. While these nonsurgical methods cannot completely heal a tear, they can often restore function to the shoulder without the need for a surgical procedure.

Some tears that cause persistent pain or do not respond to conservative treatment may require surgery. Surgery can be performed through arthroscopy or a traditional open procedure, depending on the severity of the tear. Your doctor will help you decide which treatment option is best for your individual condition.

The labrum is a protective cuff of cartilage found in ball and socket joints like the shoulder and hip. It provides stability, cushioning and a full range of motion for the shallow shoulder joint. A labral tear can occur as a result of injury or overuse, causing pain and "catching" of the joint while it is in motion.

The best treatment for a labral tear depends on the type and severity of the tear. Many can be effectively treated without surgery by managing pain symptoms and undergoing physical therapy. Surgery may be required for more severe cases, and involves an arthroscopic procedure that can restore full movement and strength to the joint.

A shoulder is deemed unstable when it frequently dislocates or slips partially out of the joint, known as subluxation. This condition commonly occurs after an injury or from a naturally loose joint capsule that does not hold the ball of the joint in its socket. Patients with instability may experience pain when lifting the arm and a constant feeling that the shoulder is slipping out of place.

Patients with shoulder instability are often treated with physical therapy and rehabilitation to strengthen the shoulder and help it stay in place. Surgery may be required if conservative methods are unsuccessful. The type of surgical procedure performed depends on the cause of the instability, but may involve tightening the shoulder capsule or repairing damaged or torn ligaments.