Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain Overview

Shoulder pain is a common condition that affects many patient populations. Shoulder pain and associated symptoms can make upper extremity movements difficult and everyday activities difficult, or even impossible to perform. Shoulder pain patients should make an appointment with a Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) shoulder specialist as soon as possible. Early treatment reduces pain and preventative measures ensure pain does not return.

Symptoms & Causes

Shoulder pain may present in the front, side or back shoulder compartments. Other symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty raising or rotating the arm
  • Difficulty gripping, grabbing and holding onto objects
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

Common shoulder pain causes are:

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Ligament sprains
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendon strains

Bone fractures and breaks also cause shoulder pain; however, they are serious injuries that require immediate medical attention and are treated differently than generalized shoulder pain.

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat the majority of shoulder pain cases. After a thorough evaluation, a CONA shoulder specialist may recommend:

  • Immobilization in a sling
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest, ice, compression, elevation

A corticosteroid injection may be offered for fast-acting pain relief. Surgical intervention may be recommended to treat shoulder pain that does not respond to nonsurgical treatment. The majority of procedures are minimally invasive—less surgical trauma is created, less postoperative pain is experienced, recovery is quicker.


A CONA specialist makes an accurate diagnosis and determines the shoulder pain cause. First, a medical history consisting of symptoms, medical conditions and injuries are obtained. Next, a complete physical examination of the shoulder is performed. Last, medical imaging studies (x-rays and an MRI) are ordered and analyzed.

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