What to Expect When You See a Shoulder Specialist
Your first visit will be with a member of our orthopaedic shoulder team, which includes doctors, surgeons, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Your shoulder specialist will:
- Take your health history, including asking about your past and current health, how long your shoulder has been hurting, how and when you injured it, and what remedies you’ve already tried
- Examine you, asking you to move your arm and shoulder in certain ways to see if you feel pain or weakness
- Ask how your shoulder pain is affecting your life, whether it limits your ability to perform daily activities or participate in sports, and what results you’re hoping to get from treatment
Imaging Tests to Diagnose Shoulder Pain
If you’ve already had X-rays or an MRI scan, your shoulder specialist will look at the images to help identify the cause of your pain. If not, he or she may order one or more of these tests:
An X-ray lets the doctor see your bones and joints. It can help diagnose fractures, dislocations, and damage such as arthritis.
MRI scans use a magnetic field to create detailed images of your bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and cartilage. An MRI can help your doctor diagnose conditions such as a rotator cuff tear, biceps tendonitis, bursitis, or frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis).
Shoulder Pain Treatment Options
After your evaluation and imaging tests, your doctor will talk with you about your diagnosis and explain what treatments are available that may relieve your pain and improve your function. Together, you’ll decide on a personalized treatment plan based on your diagnosis, activity level, goals, and preferences.
Typically, our shoulder doctors recommend starting with nonsurgical treatment options. Nonsurgical treatment may include over-the-counter medications, prescription anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or injections, including steroids. If your condition is severe, conservative treatments haven’t helped, or you’re an athlete or worker whose sport or job places heavy demands on your shoulder, your doctor may recommend shoulder surgery.