1-575-625-2669 Appointments

Should You See a Doctor About Your Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain is fairly common and is sometimes caused by a problem in another area of the body, but felt in the shoulder and upper back. It's important to see a medical provider if you're experiencing shoulder pain and any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever lasting longer than 48 hours;
  • Heat around the shoulder joint;
  • Inability to move your shoulder, especially raising your arm above your head;
  • Lasting bruising and tenderness at/around the shoulder joint; and
  • Pain lasting for more than a few weeks that does not improve with home remedies.

Should you talk with an orthopedic specialist at Eastern New Mexico Medical Group in Roswell, NM, about your shoulder pain? Take our free joint pain quiz or download an orthopedic guide to find out.

Start My Quiz Download a Guide View Our Services

Call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room if you have injured your shoulder and are bleeding and/or you can see exposed tissue or bone. If your shoulder pain is sudden and unrelated to an injury, it could be a sign of a heart attack, so seek immediate medical care.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes shoulder pain?

Shoulder pain can become more common as you age, especially for adults over 60. Sometimes, pain is caused by natural degeneration of the bone, muscle, ligament or tendons surrounding the shoulder. Other factors that can cause shoulder pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Cartilage tears
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Pinched nerves in the neck
  • Swollen tendons

The shoulder is a complex joint with tendons and ligaments that can be easily strained or torn by people of all ages. A common cause of shoulder pain is a rotator cuff injury - when tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff become inflamed, stretched or torn. Shoulder pain can be caused by other issues, such as overuse, dislocations, fractures, bursitis or tendinitis.

Shoulder surgery may be recommended if you have arthritis of the shoulder joint, have had a severe fracture or have a rotator cuff injury.

Start My Quiz Request an Appointment
What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, or arthritis affecting the joints, is the most common form of arthritis. This degenerative joint disease affects more than 32.5 million people in the U.S. and is characterized by the deterioration of cartilage or the soft tissue breakdown between the joints.

Osteoarthritis develops slowly, and the pain increases over time. As it progresses, it affects joint function, causing pain and a reduced ability to fully move affected areas. Joints commonly affected are the hands, hips, knees, feet, lower back and shoulders. This can lead to pain and discomfort, eventually resulting in bone-on-bone contact.

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis has no cure, so treatment generally focuses on controlling pain and improving joint function with treatment options that are less invasive at first, such as physical therapy, injections and using a cane or walker for support.

However, the disease can become severe and debilitating when nonsurgical treatments lose effectiveness in relieving pain. At that point, joint replacement surgery may be a good option for pain relief and improved joint function.

Request an Appointment
What does a torn rotator cuff feel like?

A torn rotator cuff causes a deep, sharp ache in your shoulder, especially when lifting your arm or moving in certain directions. You may also feel a dull pain at rest, weakness when lifting or rotating your arm, limited range of motion and cracking or popping sounds. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may also notice swelling or a bruise around your shoulder. Other warning signs include:

  • Weakness in the affected shoulder. You may find it difficult to move your arm or lift objects due to a weakened shoulder.
  • Limited range of motion. A rotator cuff tear can limit your range of movement when you try to move your arm or shoulder.
  • Discomfort at night. People with rotator cuff tears often report waking up frequently during the night due to shoulder pain.
  • Cracking or popping sounds. You may hear a cracking or popping sound when you move your shoulder due to tendons and other tissues rubbing together.
Request an Appointment
What happens during rotator cuff repair surgery?

With a rotator cuff injury, your surgeon will evaluate your symptoms to determine the best procedure to repair the tendons or muscles that may be torn or damaged. Depending on the severity of the injury, your surgeon may be able to make a series of small incisions to repair the damaged areas. More complex tears require a larger incision and longer recovery time.

Request an Appointment
What happens during total shoulder replacement surgery?

Arthritis and other injuries may lead to compromised cartilage, which can cause painful bone-on-bone contact. The main goal of shoulder replacement surgery is to provide pain relief when other methods have failed. During a total shoulder replacement, the damaged parts of the shoulder - both the cartilage and a portion of the top of the arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder socket - are removed. The head of the humerus is replaced with a plastic or metal ball. The socket of the shoulder also is replaced with a metal implant. Before surgery, your surgeon will thoroughly evaluate your situation to determine which option is right for you.

Curious to know more about shoulder pain treatment options, including surgery? Watch a 15-minute, on-demand seminar online that covers understanding shoulder pain treatment options, how shoulder joint replacement surgery works and indicators that shoulder joint replacement surgery could be right for you. You can also request an appointment with our providers.

Watch an On-Demand Seminar Request an Appointment
What is the success rate for shoulder procedures?

There is a 95% success rate for small tears repaired during rotator cuff surgery. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Research, the 10-year survival rate for total shoulder replacements is as high as 95%, while partial shoulder replacements are as high as 90%.

Request an Appointment
How long does it take to heal after a shoulder surgery?

Some patients return to light work two to three weeks after shoulder surgery but may be advised to avoid specific tasks like lifting, reaching, pushing and pulling for at least six weeks. Results can vary, but rotator cuff tendons take about six weeks to attach to the bone, and it can take six to nine months before the tendon is completely healed.

Request an Appointment

Patient results may vary. Consult your physician about the benefits and risks of any surgical procedures or treatment.

©2024 Eastern New Mexico Medical Group. All Rights Reserved.
Eastern New Mexico Medical Group is owned in part by physicians.

Notice of Nondiscrimination