Prevea Health

When should you see a doctor about your shoulder pain?

 
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How do you know when shoulder pain requires a trip to your doctor’s office?
 
As we get older, shoulder pain may be associated with rotator cuff disease. The rotator cuff is a set of tendons, connecting the cuff muscles to the humerus bone. Rotator cuff disease usually causes pain in the upper arm area, which can radiate to the elbow. Pain is often associated with reaching and lifting, and is common at night.

If the pain is due to a significant injury, such as falling on an arm or shoulder, and does not improve rapidly in one to three weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. X-rays and an MRI may be ordered to look for cuff tear. These acute tears often require surgery. It is best to have surgery in the first few months, as you could damage the tissue more by waiting.

If the pain gets worse and has been present for months or longer, it may be best to take NSAID pain relievers (Advil or Aleve), use ice and receive physical therapy to learn cuff-strengthening exercises. If the pain still persists for two to four months after those treatments, contact an orthopedic doctor. Usually, full tears will require surgery.  Sometimes, partial tears will also require surgery if they continue to cause pain and non-surgical measures have failed.

The surgery often can be performed as an outpatient procedure and the use of an arthroscope helps eliminate the need for large incisions. Patients wear a special sling for four to six weeks after surgery, and usually require weeks to months of physical therapy.

Rotator cuff surgery will often help alleviate the pain and often the pain from the surgery is very short lived. Patients can expect to see improvements over the course of several months to a year.

If it hurts to reach and you are having pain at night in the shoulder area, we can help! Don’t power through the pain any longer.
 
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