A lot of people think of the shoulder as a single body part – but, in reality, it’s a complex body part made up of several components.

In addition to numerous joints, the shoulder contains a variety of tendons, ligaments, cartilage, muscles, and bones. All of these pieces work together to allow a wide range of motion.

Despite how functional and useful this complex nature makes the shoulder; the same complexity also makes it prone to injury.

Shoulder injuries are most common among athletes and those with physical jobs, but they can happen to anyone of any age or from any walk of life.

Fortunately, orthopedic specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain, no matter the specific cause.

Recommended Dallas-Fort Worth Shoulder Doctors

Orthopedic Surgery

Bret Beavers, MD

Dr. Beavers is an orthopedic surgery doctor serving the DFW metroplex. If you are having pain in a joint, torn or sprained a ligament, or have broken a bone contact his office for a consultation.


Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

There isn’t a single cause of shoulder pain. It has a wide variety of causes stemming from numerous shoulder problems.

In addition to shoulder injuries and wear from repetitive stress, shoulder pain is sometimes caused by disease or disorders, especially degenerative issues like arthritis.

Here are some of the most common causes of shoulder pain:

  • Bursitis – An inflammation of the shoulder bursa, a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction in the joint.
  • Tendonitis – Swelling of the tissue in the shoulder, often in the rotator cuff, that connect the muscle to the bones.
  • Arthritis – Inflammation in the joint, caused by wear and degradation in the shoulder.
  • Dislocation – Caused by the bone forcefully coming out of the joint socket in the shoulder joint.
  • Tendon Tears – Also known as a rotator cuff tear, this happens when the tendon tissue in the shoulder is torn.
  • Impingement – Sometimes called “swimmer’s shoulder,” impingement happens when the tissue repeatedly rugs on the shoulder blade.
  • Fracture – A break in one of the bones in the shoulder, such as the shoulder blade or the humorous.

Your primary care doctor or orthopedic specialist will perform an examination to diagnose the exact problem.

Symptoms of Shoulder Problems

The most obvious cause of a shoulder problem is shoulder pain.

While minor pain often goes away on its own with plenty of rest and the application of ice, severe pain or prolonged pain (more than a few days) is cause for concern.

Another symptom of a more serious problem is limited range of motion. If you can’t move your shoulder like normal, it’s probably time for a doctor visit.

The same goes for any injury accompanied by a crunching or popping sound. This indicates the shoulder has moved in a way that it wasn’t meant to.

Swelling is yet another sign that something isn’t right. A swollen shoulder that doesn’t go down after a day or two warrants a visit with a doctor.

Shoulder Pain Risk Factors

No one is safe from shoulder pain. It can happen to anyone. Yet certain people are at a great risk than others:

  • Athletes – Repetitive stress and traumatic impact are two major causes of shoulder injuries in athletes.
  • Physical Labor – Those that regularly lift heavy objects or perform other physical tasks in labor-intensive jobs are more likely to injure their shoulders.
  • Aging – Just like with many other joints and body parts, the risk of shoulder injury, as well as degenerative diseases, increase as you age.

Non-Surgical Shoulder Treatment

An orthopedic surgeon starts with a conservative approach to shoulder pain.

They’ll likely recommend non-surgical treatment techniques to try before surgery. If these fail, then surgery might be the answer.

Common non-surgical treatments for shoulder pain include:

  • RICE – Rest, ice, compression, and elevation helps with many minor shoulder injuries.
  • Immobilization – Keeping the shoulder in a sling or bandage can help it heal.
  • Physical Therapy – These exercises help you regain strength and mobility in the damaged joint.

These three non-surgical treatment techniques are often accompanied by pain management, including medication and injections.

Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Pain

The majority of shoulder problems do not require surgery to treat.

In fact, the non-surgical treatment methods outlined above help cure shoulder pain, and the underlying shoulder problem, most of the time.

That’s why an orthopedic specialist usually saves shoulder surgery as a last resort. The exception is when the shoulder problem is very serious or shoulder injuries (such as dislocation and tears) reoccur on a frequent basis.

The options for shoulder surgery are numerous. They range from minor arthroscopic surgery to repair tears to open surgery for reconstruction and replacement.

For shoulder replacement, a ball-and-socket mechanism is used to replace the problematic shoulder joint (often degraded by arthritis).

Because the variations and options for shoulder surgery are so numerous, your orthopedic surgeon will perform a careful evaluation to pinpoint the best option for you.

Shoulder After Care, Recovery, and Rehabilitation

Surgery can be intimidating because of the lengthy recovery period.

Fortunately, the best modern shoulder surgeries greatly minimize recovery time, thanks to new minimally invasive techniques.

You’ll be able to return home on the same day as the surgery for most minimally-invasive procedures.

More complex, open surgeries often require a short hospital stay. These also typically require a lengthier recovery time.

The recovery period for shoulder surgery most often consists of one to three months of rest, including the use of an arm sling.

Most orthopedic surgeons recommend the use of medication for pain management. Physical therapy is beneficial during the rehabilitation period.

It’s essential to closely follow the recommended rehabilitation and conditioning program so that the stretches and exercises you perform don’t further injure the recovering shoulder.

Even after the recovery and rehabilitation period is finished, many orthopedic surgeons recommend following a dedicated stretching and warmup routine before all exercise.

How an Orthopedic Surgeon Can Help

Meeting with an orthopedic specialist is an important step in treating shoulder pain.

Not only will they diagnose and evaluate the specifics of your problem, but they’ll develop an effective treatment plan, which may or may not include shoulder surgery.

Each treatment plan is completely customized to get you back to normal as efficiently as possible.