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Why Does My Shoulder Hurt?

Shoulder pain is a prevalent affliction that is common to both young, athletic individuals and our maturing population. Although the reasons for shoulder pain often differ, an appropriate evaluation by a physician can help to diagnose the problem, with most treatments being non-operative and quite effective.

The reasons for shoulder pain can range from inflammation of the underlying structures to tendon tears, arthritis, or even pinched nerves. However, the most common reason is impingement, or compression of the tendons in the shoulder with overhead reaching that can cause secondary tendonitis or bursitis. This condition usually occurs without major tendon tearing, and responds well to medical treatments that may include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, or in some cases a local injection.

The more severe causes include rotator cuff tears, labral tears and arthritis. These conditions are diagnosed with an appropriate exam and diagnostic imaging such as an XRAY or MRI. There is a role for non-operative treatments for these conditions, but advances in shoulder arthroscopy and joint replacement have significantly improved the outcomes for these problems which, when left untreated, may contribute to chronic pain, weakness or instability of the shoulder.

There is no precise treatment for every diagnosis, and treatments may vary from person to person depending upon age, level of activity and severity of the condition. It is important to discuss these options with your physician before starting any treatment. Visiting an orthopaedic surgeon can give you the education and tools you need to maintain shoulder health and keep your active lifestyle.

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