When it comes to shoulder pain, getting the right diagnosis and treatment can save needless suffering and, in some cases, prevent additional impairment. "The challenge is that symptoms are similar for most shoulder disorders," says Kieran Cody, MD, of Doylestown Health’s Orthopedic Institute, "Pain when moving the shoulder is most common."
Get Checked if you have a Shoulder Injury
If your pain is the result of an injury due to an activity or accident, it's imperative to get checked out. "This kind of injury would be more dramatic or obvious," says Dr. Cody, noting that orthopedic specialists often refer to "rips, pops or tears" to denote circumstances that warrant immediate medical attention.
Treatment Speeds Recovery for these Common Shoulder Injuries
Some shoulder problems take longer to heal without treatment. "A frozen shoulder is fairly common and takes a very long time to get better if you just wait it out," says Dr. Cody. People who receive treatment with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medicine and, possibly, Cortisone injections get better a lot faster." Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder occurs when the lining of the joint becomes inflamed and then shrinks, causing pain and making it so the shoulder has a decreased range-of-motion, according to Dr. Cody. Physical therapy helps to strengthen muscles and stretch the lining, and anti-inflammatories help reduce swelling to restore function and relieve pain.
"Impingement syndrome, also known as shoulder bursitis, is common and extremely painful," says Dr. Cody. "The symptoms are very similar to a rotator cuff tear, so a patient would need a physical exam and MRI to be sure." Though impingement syndrome sometimes gets better on its own, it will get better faster with physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medicine or a cortisone shot, according to Dr. Cody. So, if you don't see your physician for evaluation and treatment, you suffer longer.
"A full rotator cuff tear doesn’t heal or get better with time. A patient would need a surgical repair," he explains. Injuries to the rotator cuff can occur from a trauma such as a fall, or as a result of wear and tear from a lifetime of repetitive use. "The person with a rotator cuff injury will have pain and weakness. We need to fix the tear to restore shoulder motion and strength," says Dr. Cody. "The surgery is done arthroscopically, placing about three to five tiny incisions around the shoulder and the torn tendon is anchored back into position on the bone."
Dr. Cody says that people should seek immediate treatment if they have an injury or are having severe pain, but as long as they do not have an injury, a couple of weeks of rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication may do the trick. But if pain continues or is severe, the shoulder needs to be checked by a physician. "I see people with bursitis, strains and impingements and other problems that cause a painful shoulder. These conditions can take months to get better without treatment," says Dr. Cody.
Upcoming Orthopedic Programs
Learn more about orthopedic health at one of our upcoming education sessions:
Is Joint Replacement Right for You?
Tues., Feb. 21 – 1 to 2 pm
Meet with Doylestown Health's orthopedic experts to learn about joint replacement surgery, how artificial joints work and what to expect after your joint replacement. Brief tours of the orthopedic Institute will follow. Registration required. Space is limited.
Knee Pain Treatments
Weds., Feb 22 – 7 to 8:30 pm
Suffer from knee pain, but not ready for a joint replacement? Join Douglas Boylan, MD, board-certified orthopedic surgeon, to discuss innovations in knee pain treatment. Registration is recommended as space is limited.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist
About Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute
For joint repair and replacement, spine and hand surgery, sports medicine and osteoporosis care, you’ll find Doylestown Health’s Orthopedic Institute is the perfect fit. With same and next day appointments available, our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians treat all types of bone and muscle conditions. And for eligible joint replacement patients, our rapid recovery program helps patients return to the activities they love – faster.
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