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Responsible for a wide range of movements, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. However, this mobility can make the shoulder more prone to injury. Without the use of your shoulder, everyday tasks become difficult and can interfere with your quality of life.

When a shoulder injury occurs, one can experience various symptoms that affect each person differently. While some symptoms may be mild, others may experience severe pain that persists and progresses over time. Knowing the common symptoms of a shoulder injury and when to see a doctor can prevent the condition from worsening and get you on the road to recovery.

You may be wondering what type of doctor to see and when it’s time to schedule an appointment. Orthopedic doctors are specially trained to treat joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that make up your musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic medicine can offer a variety of treatments to address the condition that your primary doctor may not be able to.

Different Causes of Shoulder Pain

Several factors can cause shoulder pain. Below are some common conditions that may lead to shoulder pain and decreased range of motion.

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage covering the ball and socket of the shoulder begins to wear out.

Dislocation in the shoulder joint happens when your upper arm bone moves out of the shoulder socket. This may cause swelling, numbness, and bruising.

Rotator Cuff Tears occur when there is a tear in the group of muscles and tendons that allows you to lift and rotate your arm.

Separation of the shoulder joint occurs when the ligaments connecting the collarbone and shoulder blade are torn. As a result, your collarbone can be pushed out of place, creating a bump on top of your shoulder.

Cartilage Tears are injuries to the cartilage around the rim of your shoulder joint. Pain when raising your arm overhead, weakness, and catching are common symptoms of a cartilage tear. 

Frozen Shoulder is caused by a buildup of adhesions around the joint that restrict your range of motion.

Impingement happens when the tendons of the rotator cuff get pinched in the bones of the shoulder, leading to pain and swelling.

Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, or small, fluid-filled sacs that cushions the shoulder joint.

When to Visit an Orthopedic Specialist for Shoulder Pain

Depending on the condition, each person may experience a different set of symptoms that affect the shoulder. 

Common symptoms of shoulder injury include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move the shoulder
  • Muscle spasm
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Shoulder or arm weakness
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Clicking with movement

As your symptoms progress, you may want to consider seeing an orthopedic doctor. Here are some things to let you know that it may be time for medical intervention:

  • Your shoulder pain is not subsiding after rest
  • Pain is present when resting your arm
  • You begin experiencing numbness and weakness down the arm
  • Your pain intensifies
  • Pain increases with movement
  • You can see visible swelling or lump near the shoulder joint

If left untreated, shoulder pain can progress and interfere with hobbies and daily living. When pain persists and becomes debilitating, it may be time to see an orthopedic specialist.

How Orthopedic Doctors Treat Shoulder Pain

Your first appointment with an orthopedic specialist will start with a comprehensive exam to identify the cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan.

Orthopedic exams will often include a medical history, physical exam, range of motion testing, and possible imaging. X-rays are often prescribed to examine the bones. An MRI may also be used to view the soft tissue in and around the joint.

Depending on the exam and imaging reports, your doctor may start with conservative treatments, such as rest, ice, and pain meds. If your pain persists after conservative treatments, your orthopedic doctor may move to other treatment methods.

Below are common treatments and procedures to treat shoulder pain and improve range of motion:

Medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription-strength anti-inflammatories, may be the first course of action to relieve shoulder pain.

Cortisone Injections can be injected into the joint space or soft tissue around the shoulder to reduce pain and inflammation.

Physical Therapy can be prescribed to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and increase mobility. Treatments may include stretching, strengthening, joint mobilization, heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or athletic taping.

PRP Therapy, or platelet-rich plasma, uses your body’s blood platelets to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. PRP treatments are administered to the injured or inflamed joint area in a series of injections.

Shoulder Arthroscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny camera to examine and repair the tissues inside or around the shoulder joint. Arthroscopic surgery allows for smaller incisions, faster healing, less scarring, and less recovery.

Shoulder Replacement may be effective for patients with severe arthritis. During surgery, damaged cartilage, bone, and connective tissues are removed to reduce pain and improve range of motion.

Ready to Learn More?

Memorial Hospital of Gardena is committed to giving patients the best in advanced care so they can remain healthy, happy, and active. Our professional yet compassionate orthopedic specialists are experienced in providing exceptional care for all musculoskeletal disorders.

To learn more about treatment options for arthritis and other bone, joint, and mobility issues, please contact the orthopedics department at Memorial Hospital of Gardena. Call (310) 512-6141 to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at our Multi-specialty Clinic.