Shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons for people to schedule appointments with their doctor. The most common cause of shoulder pain is tendonitis, bursitis and is less commonly due to a rotator cuff tear or arthritis.
Shoulder pain can affect anybody from the avid tennis player or golfer, to the occasional athlete. It can also arise from every day house chores and work around the garden. When shoulder pain does occur, it can be debilitating affecting activities of daily living. It often times will lead to many restless nights of tossing and turning making it difficult to get a good nights rest. Once other etiologies such as cervical spine pain are ruled out, the specific reason you are having shoulder pain can be due to a number of different things.
The shoulder joint is a complex machine allowing us to move our arm through a wide arc of motion. This wide range of motion is the result of multiple muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones working in concert with one another. When working together, our shoulder can deliver 100 mph pitches and 140 mph tennis serves. Each of these components can also be the reason you are having pain. The good news is the majority of shoulder pain can be treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medication and therapy. In addition, targeted steroid injections can also be performed to help alleviate the pain. Rarely is surgery needed to treat shoulder pain.
What to expect when you go to the doctor
Your doctor will likely order shoulder x-rays to rule out arthritis or other abnormalities. Your doctor will then perform a detailed exam and correlate those findings with your x-rays. The majority of treatment regimens begin with physical therapy for shoulder strengthening, anti-inflammatory medications, and possibly shoulder injections. The majority of patients will make a full recovery after 4-6 weeks of therapy. For patients who do not improve with therapy, the doctor will likely order an MRI to rule out a labral or rotator cuff tear. The results of the MRI will then help guide treatment moving forward.