When to Seek Medical Help for Shoulder Pain 

A man grimacing in shoulder pain, clutching his shoulder, with an overlaid digital representation highlighting inflammation or injury in the shoulder joint and upper arm bone.

Shoulder injuries can be pretty common, most frequently in the athletic community. Though they are ubiquitous among athletes, shoulder injuries can happen during your daily routine. Many people have to deal with shoulder pain daily. Shoulder pain can be manageable, or you can procrastinate seeing a doctor. So, how long should I wait to see a doctor for shoulder pain?

Most shoulder pain and injuries stem from damaged muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These injuries can slowly build up and worsen when the various red flags that there is an issue are ignored. If you have experienced an injury during or after an accident, this is what the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • See a doctor immediately: shoulder pain paired with tightness of the chest and labored breathing is a sign of a heart attack. If this is occurring, you require immediate medical attention. If your joints appear to be swelling, deformed, or unable to use them, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment: You should schedule a doctor’s appointment when you notice redness, warmth, swelling, or tenderness around your shoulder. If these symptoms are paired with any pain level, seeing your doctor as soon as possible is crucial.
  • Rest: If the pain in your shoulder is mild and there are no other symptoms, you can take over-the-counter pain relief medications. You will also want to rest the shoulder instead of pushing through the pain and ice it to relieve the tension.

Orthopedic surgeons organize shoulder pain and injuries into two categories: traumatic and overuse. The shoulder has more mobility than all other joints in the body, which causes more injuries. Shoulder pain can typically be resolved with non-invasive treatments. However, surgical intervention may be possible if these treatments do not yield the necessary results.

Possible Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are numerous possibilities regarding what might be causing your shoulder pain. Below, we will explore these possible causes.


Tendinitis in the shoulder is usually caused by repetitive motion. It is common amongst athletes, specifically those who do not use proper form, and puts unnecessary stress on the shoulder tendons and tissue.

Rest and ice are typically the first steps in treating tendinitis in the shoulder. This reduces the swelling and pain and brings general relief. Physical therapy can also reduce the symptoms and assist in regaining mobility in the joint. Surgery is not normally needed unless the tendon has been torn.


Bursitis in the shoulder occurs when the bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that protect the bones, tendons, and muscles, become inflamed. It is quite common in the shoulder because of the repetitive motion within the joint.

This condition can create swelling, stiffness, and general aching in the shoulder. Bursitis will generally begin to fade as you rest and take self-care to limit joint mobility. If your pain continues, we recommend seeing your doctor for further treatment.

Rotator Cuff Tear

Tears in the rotator cuff are pretty common amongst those who are middle-aged or partake in overhead motions for their job. These tears can happen over time or from a sudden injury. Most have described their pain as dull aches that can worsen if slept on the injured shoulder. This kind of tear can weaken your arm and make brushing your hair difficult.

If you suspect that you have a torn rotator cuff, we recommend going to an orthopedic doctor to seek treatment immediately. There are many kinds of treatments, but they are easier to carry out when the injury is diagnosed early.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that slowly progresses over time, resulting in stiffness and pain within the joint. There are three primary stages of frozen shoulders.

  • Freezing: You begin to feel pain when moving the shoulder, limiting your range of motion.
  • Frozen: the joint stiffens and begins to hurt when in use.
  • Thawing: your shoulder begins to normalize.

Those who are more at risk of a frozen shoulder have experienced a medical procedure or specific occasion that limited movement in the arm. This condition is also frequently seen in those over 40, specifically in women more than men.

A frozen shoulder typically resolves itself within 12 to 18 months; however, physical therapy can assist in the recovery process.


When the upper arm bone, also known as the humorous, is forced out of the shoulder socket, shoulder instability begins. This can be caused by overuse or a sudden accident. Sadly, shoulder dislocation is very likely to happen again, and when it frequently occurs, the condition is known as chronic shoulder instability.

Dislocations of the shoulders can be either partial dislocations or complete dislocations. This means the ball joint will come out of the socket entirely or partially. Ligaments in the shoulder being stretched or strained can cause dislocation, but it is not the only cause.

Shoulder separation differs from dislocation because it directly results from loosened ligaments. The bones remain in place, while the ligaments surrounding them cause a feeling of weakness and instability. Physical therapy and adjusting general motion with the shoulder can help minimize symptoms. Seeking treatment from a medical professional is always a wise decision when dealing with these kinds of injuries. Anti-inflammatory medications and injections can help relieve swelling and joint pain.

Surgical Intervention

Most of these shoulder injuries do not require surgical intervention. However, shoulder replacement surgery is still an option to resolve these conditions. It is not as common as hip or knee replacements, but it can effectively restore your shoulder to its former function.

If you are interested in such a surgical procedure, you will first have to undergo an evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon. This will include a full examination, a deep dive into your medical history, and imaging tests such as MRIs and X-rays.

If you are ready to address your shoulder pain, contact Surgery Consultants of Florida today to schedule a surgical consultation. Shoulder pain is common, but you must not live with it.

by Surgery Consultants of Florida

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