Shoulder Pain and Injury Illustration - © Agility Orthopedics

Shoulder Pain: When to See and Orthopaedic Surgeon

Living With Shoulder Pain

Are you living with chronic shoulder pain? Have you been avoiding meeting with a physician in fears that your pain might be something more serious? It is common to put off seeking treatment in hopes that pain will subside on its own. But how can you determine the difference between temporary pain and and an issue that requires medical intervention?

Signs You Should Consult an Orthopaedic Surgeon:

  • Your pain is accompanied by swelling or redness
  • Your shoulder joint is tender to the touch
  • Your shoulder joint appears to be deformed or abnormal
  • You are unable to move your arm away from your body
  • Your pain increases over time
  • Your pain has lasted more than a few weeks
  • Your pain prevents you from doing daily activities or disrupts your sleep
  • Methods of self care such as rest, ice and use of pain relievers do not decrease pain

*If shoulder pain occurs in addition to tightness in the chest or labored breathing, you could be experiencing a heart attack. Call 911 immediately.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, you may or may not know the source of the discomfort. If you have experienced an acute injury, you have a better understanding of the source of your pain. However, shoulder pain can often develop slowly over time leaving the sufferer with a lot of questions about the source and solution of the problem. There are a number of reasons for sustained pain in your shoulder joint.

  • Bursitis
  • Rotator cuff injury or tear
  • Damage to your labrum, joint lining or ligaments resulting in shoulder instability
  • Frozen shoulder (adhesions in the shoulder joint resulting from underuse)
  • Arthritis
  • Broken collar bone
  • Brachial plexus injury

If you are trying to determine whether or not to consult an orthopaedic surgeon for your pain, know it is often better to air on the side of caution. Be sure to prepare for your appointment by considering the right questions to ask.


2 replies
  1. Henry Killingsworth
    Henry Killingsworth says:

    It was really interesting when you talked about how a broken collar bone can cause shoulder pain. Is it easy for a collar bone injury to go undiagnosed for a good amount of time? I fell on my arm a couple of weeks ago while hiking, and my shoulder has been hurting ever since then so it might be a good idea for me to find a doctor.

  2. Erika Brady
    Erika Brady says:

    Thanks for explaining that I should see an orthopedic surgeon if my shoulder is in pain and it gets worse over time. My mom mentioned to me last night that her shoulder still hurts after hurting it a few weeks ago. I’ll have to look for an orthopedic surgeon that can find out the problem and help her recover.


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