When Should You See a Doctor When Having Shoulder Pain?

Brooklyn orthopedics

Many conditions cause shoulder pain, and sometimes the shoulder pain could be radiating from another body part. Shoulder pain that occurs at the shoulder joint can be a result of damage to either the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in that joint. Shoulder pain can be a symptom of systemic diseases like heart disease or gallbladder disease.

The difference between shoulder pains caused by a condition outside the shoulder is that the pain caused by a problem in the shoulder becomes worse when you move your shoulder. Referred shoulder pain that is coming from another body part does not worsen with shoulder movement. Consulting a doctor at Brooklyn orthopedics will help confirm the exact cause of your shoulder pain and provide personalized treatment.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can be pain caused by injury to your shoulder due to trauma or a fall. A fracture of the bones in the shoulder joint can also cause shoulder pain. Infections in the shoulder, such as arthritis, will cause shoulder pain, and the joint will appear red and swollen and have reduced mobility.  Damage or tension of the muscles around the shoulder joint can also cause shoulder pain, and this is common when you maintain a poor posture of your upper back or neck.

Other causes of shoulder pain include shoulder dislocation, rupture of tendons, and damage to the cartilage in the bones’ shoulder joint or avascular necrosis. The pain in the shoulder can also permeate from the chest, abdomen, heart, or gallbladder. A heart attack presents with shoulder pain that is radiating to the left arm.

How Is Shoulder Pain Diagnosed?

The doctor will take a medical history enquiring about the onset and duration of the pain, whether the pain was due to a physical injury, and whether there are factors that reduce the pain or worsen it like moving the shoulder. The doctor will also ask whether you have other symptoms associated with shoulder pain like chest pain or numbness.

The doctor then carries out a physical examination of the body systems followed by a local examination of the shoulder joint. The doctor looks for symptoms of inflammation like redness, swelling, and warmth of the joint. The doctor will then order laboratory tests to check for infection. The doctor then orders imaging tests like an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI of the shoulder joint to look for fractures in the joint.

When to See a Doctor for Shoulder Pain

You should consult your doctor if your shoulder pain radiates to the jaw or upper arm or you experience severe chest pain and tightness with breathing difficulties. These symptoms may be a sign of a heart attack that requires emergency treatment. You should also see a doctor if you are unable to move your shoulder joint.

If your shoulder pain results from physical injury or a fall, ensure that you consult a doctor. Severe pain or swelling in the shoulder or a deformed shoulder should be checked out by a doctor. Seeing a doctor will help to rule out serious conditions that could be causing your shoulder pain.


Shoulder pain can result from a problem within the shoulder joint, or it can be a referral from another body part like the heart. You should see a doctor if you have pain that is radiating to the upper arm and is associated with difficulties in breathing, if you are unable to move a severely painful shoulder, or if your shoulder is deformed.