The shoulder is one of the most frequently used joints in the body and performs a wide range of movements. While this mobility allows you to complete various routine tasks and engage in many athletic activities, it also makes the joint more susceptible to injury.
Shoulder pain can develop for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it may be due to sleeping in an awkward position and will resolve on its own shortly. Other times, it may be due to an acute injury during a workout or while participating in an athletic activity. You can also develop repetitive use shoulder injuries that cause painful inflammation and irritation in the joint. Shoulder pain can also be age-related – either due to your shoulder joint wearing out or because you develop arthritis.
With so many potential sources and causes of shoulder pain, you may wonder when you should see a doctor and what type of specialist to visit. Understanding the common symptoms associated with shoulder injuries and when to see a doctor can help prevent the issue from becoming more severe.
Shoulder pain is considered an orthopedic injury; you’ll want to see an orthopedic surgeon or a sports medicine specialist. Orthopedic surgeons specialize in treating injuries and conditions associated with bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedics that focuses on injuries during athletic activities.
The cause of your injury will typically dictate whether you should visit an orthopedic surgeon or a sports medicine doctor. For example, if your shoulder pain is related to an injury you sustained while skiing, playing baseball, or engaging in another sport, you will want to visit a sports medicine doctor. However, if your injury is unrelated to an athletic pursuit, you should see an orthopedic doctor.
You should always seek a specialist when looking for an orthopedist to address your shoulder pain. Most orthopedic surgeons choose to focus on a specific area of the body. When you work with a shoulder specialist, you’ll benefit from the expertise of a doctor who has undergone extensive training on injuries associated with this joint and has dedicated their practice to becoming an expert on shoulder treatments and surgeries.
Not all shoulder pain requires medical attention. As we mentioned earlier, sleeping in an awkward position may be something as simple as sleeping. However, there are also times when seeing a shoulder specialist is necessary to ensure you receive the treatment necessary to recover from a severe injury.
Visiting a shoulder specialist is typically beneficial in the following situations:
Often, mild shoulder pain can be treated with conservative, nonsurgical methods such as:
If you’ve tried these treatment methods and haven’t experienced any improvement in your condition, you should see a shoulder specialist.
As mentioned above, mild shoulder pain can often be treated conservatively with good results. However, more severe shoulder pain is typically a sign of a serious underlying injury or condition that a shoulder specialist should evaluate.
Anytime you cannot pinpoint the cause of your shoulder pain, you should visit a shoulder specialist. This will ensure the condition is accurately diagnosed and the proper treatments are provided.
If your shoulder pain is mild and not negatively impacting your daily life, you may want to consider resting it for a while to see if it will heal on its own. However, when your symptoms are painful enough to impact your quality of life or your ability to perform routine daily tasks, you should visit a shoulder specialist.
Some common symptoms that may warrant an evaluation by a specialist include:
Pain after an acute injury can often be intense, but in many instances, it will resolve in a short period with conservative treatments. However, if your pain lasts for at least six months, it becomes classified as chronic pain. If you’re experiencing chronic pain that isn’t improving or has become worse over time, you should see a shoulder specialist since this is likely a sign of a more serious issue.
During your initial visit, our shoulder specialists will conduct a series of diagnostic exams to determine the cause of your pain. This can include reviewing your medical history, range of motion testing, and a physical evaluation of your shoulder. You may also undergo imaging, such as X-rays or an MRI, so our shoulder surgeons can better understand the issues causing your pain.
Based on the results of these diagnostic exams, our shoulder specialists will recommend a treatment plan to alleviate your pain and restore full function to the joint. If the injury isn’t severe, potential nonsurgical treatments may include:
Shoulder surgery may be required to address the condition in cases of more serious injuries.
Common shoulder surgery procedures include:
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, Colorado Advanced Orthopedics can help. Our team of board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine doctors have extensive experience treating shoulder injuries, and we can help you get back to living a pain-free life.
Our shoulder surgery team includes Dr. Rhett Griggs, who has fellowship training in shoulder, hand, and elbow surgery, and Dr. Kevin Borchard, who specializes in total joint replacement surgeries. Working with orthopedic surgeons specializing in shoulder procedures ensures you receive the best treatment.
In addition, you’ll benefit from our in-house physical therapy team. Our physical therapists work closely with your shoulder surgeon throughout rehab, ensuring everyone on your care team is aligned at every phase. This coordination of your care leads to exceptional shoulder surgery outcomes.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Colorado Advanced Orthopedics serves patients in Meeker and throughout the White River Valley.
Subscribe to our monthly publication highlighting Life's Joy and getting back to your life. We feature health tips, being out and about, and bringing joy to daily life.Subscribe