The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in your body. Its motion allows you to change a light bulb, reach for plates in a cabinet, swing a golf club and even throw a ball. The shoulder also provides the strength to push a child on a swing, lift and carry a heavy box, and push you up from a sitting position. Given how much we rely on and use our shoulders on a daily basis, the shoulder can be easily injured.

“Because of the complex nature of the shoulder joint, even a simple strain can throw the shoulder out of balance and make seemingly easy tasks quite uncomfortable.” said Dr. Joel E. Hein, orthopedic surgeon at OSMS.

Approximately 30% of all adults will experience shoulder pain in his/her lifetime. While we all live with aches and pains, shoulder pain is not something you need to live with. So, when should you seek advice of a surgeon? When:

  • Your shoulder pain interferes with sleeping for more than a week – whether you are awakened by the pain or you feel pain as soon as you get up in the morning.
  • You feel a sharp pinching sensation in the shoulder when you reach your hand across the opposite shoulder, like when reaching for a seatbelt.
  • You feel pain when you reach behind your back.
  • You find it increasingly difficult to reach your hand over your head or out to the side.
  • You have shoulder pain or stiffness that has been recurring for more than a month.
  • Your pain limits your daily functions, like the ability pick things up or put things on high shelves.
  • Your shoulder “snaps,” “pops,” “clicks,” or feels like its catching.
  • When home treatments, like rest and anti-inflammatories, are not easing the pain.

Surgery? Maybe not!

The first step to any constant or recurring shoulder pain is to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon to find out both the cause and severity of the injury. Usually the longer you have shoulder pain, the longer it takes to make it feel better. The sooner your shoulder is evaluated, the sooner a treatment plan can be developed to get you back to your previous level of activity.

“Surgery is typically not the first option when it comes to shoulder pain, “says Dr. Hein. “In fact, we often recommend conservative treatment, and most shoulder injuries can be treated without surgery. We always go over all the options with our patients, and we decide the best course of treatment together.”

If you have been experiencing shoulder pain for more than a week, or have had recurring pain or stiffness lasting more than a month, please schedule an appointment for evaluation. Remember, the earlier you are able to get advice about your issue, the sooner you can start the treatment plan that is right for you. We’ll get you back to the life you love.

Dr. Joel E. Hein is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon at OSMS and sees patients in Green Bay and Marinette.