February 27, 2024

How do I know if I need to see a Shoulder Specialist?

Good shoulder health isn’t something to be taken lightly. It is crucial if you want to maintain an active and pain-free lifestyle.

So, when you’re concerned about shoulder problems arise, it is wise to seek the counsel of a shoulder specialist/shoulder surgery specialist.

Making the effort to see a specialist can make a significant difference in accurately diagnosing and effectively treating the issue bothering you. This guide aims to help you assess whether it’s time to consult a shoulder specialist.

Most importantly, it explores the signs and symptoms that may indicate the need for specialised care. Read on!

What your Orthopaedic Surgeon wants you Know about the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder joint is a complex structure. It is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Its remarkable flexibility allows for a wide range of motions. Here’s the twist. It also makes the shoulder susceptible to injuries and conditions.

To better understand potential problems that may arise, it helps to familiarise yourself with the anatomy and functions of the shoulder joint. So,

What are the Shoulder Problems?

Shoulder conditions can range from minor irritations to chronic pain and functional limitations. Understanding the most common shoulder problems can aid in identifying potential issues.

Each condition has distinct symptoms and risk factors associated with it. Some prevalent conditions include;

  • Rotator Cuff Tears: Rotator cuff tears refer to the partial or complete tearing of the tendons in the shoulder’s rotator cuff. This injury can cause pain, weakness, and a limited range of motion. This means that going about your daily activities can also become challenging.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Shoulder impingement occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff become compressed or pinched between the bones of the shoulder joint. This can result in pain, inflammation, and difficulty raising the arm overhead.
  • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis): Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The condition typically progresses through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. It can limit shoulder mobility and cause significant discomfort.
  • Shoulder Arthritis: This is the degeneration and inflammation of the shoulder joint. It is most commonly due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms can range from pain, to stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the shoulder. These may not only impact your daily activities but also reduce your quality of life.
  • Shoulder Instability: Shoulder instability refers to the excessive movement or looseness of the shoulder joint. It mainly occurs from traumatic injuries. It may also be caused by repetitive overhead motions, or congenital factors. If you have shoulder instability, you may experience recurrent dislocations or subluxations. These effects can not only cause pain but also instability during shoulder movements.

When to See a Shoulder Specialist

Recognising the signs that may indicate the need for a shoulder specialist’s evaluation is essential. Luckily, these symptoms aren’t so difficult to spot. Here’s a quick summary of the symptoms that should prompt you to consider seeing a shoulder specialist;

  • Persistent or worsening pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • Difficulty performing daily activities or sports
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Warmth around the shoulder joint
  • Clicking or popping sensations
  • A history of shoulder injury or trauma
  • Family history of shoulder conditions
  • Failed conservative treatments, and
  • The presence of other underlying medical conditions

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

There are symptoms that may indicate the need to see a shoulder specialist immediately. These include;

  • severe or sudden-onset pain
  • An inability to move the shoulder or arm
  • Visible deformity or significant swelling
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand, and
  • Weakness or loss of muscle control

These are “red flag” symptoms of shoulder problems. They may indicate a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

What is the Role of a Shoulder Specialist

There are two broad groups of specialists you may want to see for a shoulder problem. These are the orthopaedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians with a focus on shoulder conditions.

These groups of shoulder specialists possess the expertise and knowledge to diagnose shoulder problems. Thanks to this knowledge and expertise, they can also help you develop a tailored treatment plan for your shoulder problem accurately.

That in mind, the role of a shoulder specialist is to diagnose and treat shoulder problems. Under the care of a specialist, you can benefit from their comprehensive understanding of shoulder anatomy, advanced diagnostic techniques, and a range of treatment options.

Early intervention by a shoulder specialist can prevent further damage and complications, facilitating a quicker recovery. This is because they use various diagnostic procedures and tests to assess the underlying cause of shoulder pain or dysfunction. These may include;

  • A thorough physical examination
  • A review of your medical history
  • Imaging studies (like X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound), and
  • Electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies

These tests provide valuable information to help the specialist make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan. When it comes to treatment, non-surgical treatment options are often the first line of defence for many shoulder conditions. That said, your shoulder specialist may recommend;

  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises
  • Pain relief and inflammation reduction medications
  • Steroid injections, and the
  • Application of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to help manage your shoulder problems.

Surgical interventions like arthroscopy or joint replacement may also be recommended. Note that surgery may only be recommended if you’re dealing with a severe or persistent case. Please, discuss the available treatment options with your shoulder specialist to determine the best course of action for your specific condition.

Closing Thoughts

Selecting the right shoulder specialist is crucial for receiving optimal care. Consider factors like board certification, credentials, experience and expertise in shoulder-related conditions, positive patient reviews, recommendations, and a collaborative approach to care.

Insist on working with a shoulder specialist who understands your unique needs and communicates effectively. This will contribute to a positive treatment experience. If you’re in Singapore, contact us now to schedule an appointment. Call or visit us at;

Artisan Sports & Orthopaedics Surgery

290 Orchard Road,

 Paragon Medical Centre #07-12,

 Singapore 238859


+65 8909 8877

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