Shoulder Pain

What most people call the shoulder is really several joints that combine with tendons and muscles to allow a wide range of motion in the arm — from scratching your back to throwing the perfect pitch.

Mobility has its price, however. It may lead to increasing problems with instability or impingement of the soft tissue or bony structures in your shoulder, resulting in pain. You may feel pain only when you move your shoulder, or all of the time. The pain may be temporary or it may continue and require medical diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

  • Pain distribution from an issue with your cervical spine

  • Tendon inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or tendon tear

  • Tendon inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or tendon tear

  • Instability

  • Arthritis

  • Fracture (broken bone)

Diagnostic Imaging for Shoulder Pain

In some case additional imaging may be needed to diagnose the cause of your shoulder pain. This may include:

  • X-rays
    These pictures will show any injuries to the bones that make up your shoulder joint.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound
    These imaging studies create better pictures of soft tissues. It may help your doctor identify injuries to the ligaments and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
    This tool combines x-rays with computer technology to produce a very detailed view of the bones in the shoulder area.
  • Electrical studies
    We may order a tests, such as the EMG (electromyogram), to evaluate nerve function.
  • Arthrogram
    During this x-ray study, dye is injected into the shoulder to better show the joint and its surrounding muscles and tendons.

  • Arthroscopy
    In this surgical procedure, your doctor looks inside the joint with a fiber-optic camera. Arthroscopy may show soft tissue injuries that are not apparent from the physical examination, x-rays, and other tests. In addition to helping find the cause of pain, arthroscopy may be used to correct the problem.

Treatments for Shoulder Pain

The key is to seek treatment from a specialist and obtain a primary diagnosis. Shoulder pain might be minor and easily ignored, or it can be excruciating to the point where it interferes with important daily activities, such as sleep. The pain might be short-lived, come and go, or become constant.

Treatment generally involves rest and altering your activity level. Physical therapy to improve strength and treatment with medications are all to be considered. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the condition and your desired outcome.

Pain Management Treatments
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