Shoulder Pain: When Should You See a Specialist?

Alexander M. Aboka, MD, MPH

Shoulder pain can be a disabling condition affecting individuals of all walks of life, and limiting their ability to perform many normal daily activities. In many instances it is caused by an injury or an overuse event that leads to localize tissue injury an inflammation.  Conservative treatment, including  rest, physical therapy and oral medication has proven successful in the management of most minor shoulder pain.

It’s important however to be aware that pain and other shoulder symptoms can be a sign of a problem that requires prompt evaluation and treatment by a shoulder specialist.  Be mindful of pain that persists for a long time and does not get better with oral pain medication. Also of concern should be pain that is prominent at night and wakes you up. Any limitation in range of motion due to stiffness and/or weakness is not normal, and significant grinding and rubbing sensations warrant an evaluation.  A sudden inability to reach out or overhead, and inability to maintain the arm overhead is of significant concern, especially after a fall or other injury.

Some painful shoulder conditions like impingement and frozen shoulder respond well to conservative treatment with rest, physical therapy and oral medications.  Others like chronic tendinitis and advanced arthritis do well with surgery. Acute large rotator cuff tears require prompt surgical fixation to restore shoulder function.

It is important to pay attention to the signals your body is sending. An evaluation by a specialty trained shoulder surgeon is critical in the early diagnosis and effective treatment of most of these conditions.  When surgery is necessary, modern arthroscopic techniques now make it possible to perform minimally invasive work with very good outcomes and quick recovery, and return to normal function.

Free Shoulder Pain Seminar in Suffolk
Interested in learning more about treatment options for shoulder pain? Register to attend Dr. Aboka’s free community seminar on shoulder injury in Suffolk, Virginia November 8, 2013. Learn more at!

Alexander M. Aboka, MD, MPH, of Virginia Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists is a fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, arthroscopy, and shoulder and knee reconstructive surgery. He completed an orthopaedic sports medicine fellowship at the Cincinnati Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has provided sports medicine coverage at a variety of levels with high profile teams, including the University of New Mexico Lobos and the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Aboka, please contact us online or call our office directly at 757.215.3789.

2 thoughts on “Shoulder Pain: When Should You See a Specialist?

  1. Louise Edwards

    Thanks. I have passed this on to my father-in-law who has been saying his right shoulder, which has had arthroscopy already, is bugging him even more now!

  2. Pingback: Shoulder Pain: When Should You See a Specialist? | Virginia Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists

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