The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. We depend on our shoulders for many activities like lifting groceries, driving and dressing. Shoulder pain due to injury or disease can limit range of motion and get in the way of daily living.
Causes of shoulder pain
Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, formed by three bones: the humerus or arm, the scapula or shoulder blade and the clavicle or the collarbone.
The joints allow your arm to rotate in a full circle and elevate it upward, downward, forward and backward. Each joint is surrounded by cartilage to pad the meeting of the bones, ligaments that connect the bones to each other and the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones.
These soft tissues can become damaged from overuse or underuse, from accidents and from conditions that cause gradual deterioration.
Causes of shoulder pain may include:
- Bone spurs
- Broken collarbone
- Fractures in the upper arm bone or shoulder blade
- Frozen shoulder
- Overuse injuries/repetitive motion injuries
(such as swimmer’s shoulder)
- Pinched nerves
- Shoulder arthritis
- Shoulder dislocation and separation
- Swollen or torn cartilage or tendons
(such as rotator cuff tears)
- Tendinitis, rotator cuff tendinitis
Shoulder pain symptoms
Shoulder pain may be mild or severe depending on the severity of injury or deterioration. Signs of shoulder injury or disease include:
- Pain with movement (tingling, numbness or burning sensation)
- Localized pain or pain that radiates out to arms, neck or back
- Limited range of motion
- Tenderness or swelling
Main Line Health has board-certified orthopaedic physicians to diagnose and treat a wide range of shoulder conditions. From conservative, nonsurgical orthopaedic treatments to joint repair and shoulder joint replacement to complex complex shoulder reconstruction surgery, our team of experts will develop a personalized plan of care for each patient.
Shoulder pain diagnosis and treatment options
Our experienced radiologists and orthopaedic specialists work as a team to quickly and accurately diagnose your shoulder pain.
In most cases, conservative, nonsurgical approaches will be recommended before surgery is considered. Many patients will find pain relief and increased function with a combination of medication or injection and physical therapy.
If pain does not subside and imaging confirms a worsening shoulder issue, your orthopaedic provider may discuss surgical intervention.
Treatment options include:
- Arthroscopy and arthroplasty
- Complex shoulder reconstruction and stabilization
- Shoulder fracture repair
- Joint distension
- Shoulder joint replacement
- Shoulder revision
- Rotator cuff surgery
- Shoulder tear repair
Shoulder pain recovery
Recovery from a shoulder condition will usually include rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers for minor issues. Outpatient physical therapy may be prescribed to help strengthen and condition the shoulder after injury.
For more complex cases involving surgery, your body will need time to heal. Your surgeon and physical therapist will coordinate your recovery, which may include both inpatient and outpatient physical therapy, as well as exercises to do at home. Combined with medication to help manage pain, recovery can take weeks to months depending on the severity of your shoulder condition.
A team approach to shoulder care
At Main Line Health, your shoulder care is a team effort. Your care team will consist of orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, nurses and physical and occupational therapists working together with the goal to alleviate your shoulder pain and restore maximum function.