When to See Your Doctor With Shoulder Pain

31 Aug

Seek emergency care for a possible heart attack if you have sudden shoulder pain with light-headedness; nausea, chest, jaw, or back pain; or weakness or numbness in one arm. Severe pain from a fall or other accident also warrants medical attention.

Consider seeing your doctor if self-treatment brings no improvement in two to four weeks. A description of symptoms and their effects (such as waking you at night) and a physical exam can help your doctor determine the source. A popping or crunching sound when you rotate your shoulder may signify arthritis. The inability to resist even gentle pressure with your outstretched arm could me a rotator cuff tear.

Your doctor may recommend continuing at-home treatments, steroid injections, or physical therapy PT). Steroid shots may reduce inflammation and pain short-term, but it’s unclear whether they’re more effective than some OTC pain relievers. PT, a supervised exercise program, can be effective but may take a month or more before you see substantial improvements, says Michael Mizhiritsky, M.D., a physiatrist at Lennox Hill Hospital in New York City.

What about surgery: Though some people with severe OS may benefit from shoulder replacement surgery, rotator cuff injuries can generally be treated non-surgically, Murthi says, “Surgery should be treated as a last resort for shoulder pain, Mizhiritsky says.

Source: Consumer Reports on Health August 2018 Anand Murthi, M.D., chief of shoulder and elbow surgery at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore

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