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Shoulder Pain Treatment Options


The shoulder is your most movable joint, and therefore it is also the joint most vulnerable to pain and instability. Shoulder pain can be caused by a wide variety of reasons. The pain may be temporary; however prolonged shoulder pain usually requires medical intervention to remedy the pain.

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Find The Best Remedy For Shoulder Pain 

The four most common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Fracture
  • Instability
  • Tendon inflammation or tendon tear 

Non-Surgical Shoulder Pain Treatment Options

Tendon inflammation, shoulder impingement, frozen shoulder, and shoulder instability can many times be treated with non-surgical options.

Tendon inflammation/Shoulder impingement is generally caused by trauma or playing sports such as tennis, baseball, swimming, and weight lifting. This condition can be treated with rest, ice packs, anti-inflammatory drugs, and avoiding the activities involving the shoulder. Physical therapy may be advised and steroid injections may be given if shoulder pain persists.

Frozen shoulder limits shoulder movement due to pain and shoulder ligament inflammation. Treatment options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroid injections for pain, treatment of underlying risk factors, and if necessary, shoulder arthroscopy.

Shoulder instability is a condition that can cause future shoulder joint dislocations, as well as arthritis. Treatment options include shoulder joint realignment manipulation, pain medication, shoulder rest, and ice packs. When these conservative treatment options fail to relieve shoulder instability, minimally-invasive arthroscopy may be recommended.

Surgical Treatment Options 

Only when nonsurgical options have been exhausted and pain continues, are surgical treatment options for shoulder pain considered.

Rotator cuff sparing total shoulder arthroplasty (replacement) is one of the most innovative orthopedic surgeries available. Using the rotator cuff sparing surgical technique, we perform total shoulder replacement using a small opening between the rotator cuff tendons. Using this surgical window, rather than cutting through the rotator cuff, to gain access to the shoulder joint, we are able to perform a total shoulder replacement leaving the tendons completely intact. What this means for the patient is greatly improved post-surgical function, substantially less pain, and a quicker recovery.  

Minimally invasive shoulder arthroscopy is a surgical procedure in which an arthroscope, a small fiber-optic viewing instrument, is used to insert surgical instruments to repair the damaged shoulder thus sparing trauma to surrounding muscles, ligaments and tissues. The benefits of minimally-invasive arthroscopy are smaller incisions, faster healing, a more rapid recovery, and less scarring. Arthroscopic surgical procedures are often performed on an outpatient basis without hospitalization.

Arthroscopy may be recommended for shoulder problems such as:

  • Clavicle/Shoulder arthritis
  • Debridement (loose bodies or bony spurs)
  • Shoulder instability evaluation and treatment
  • Shoulder joint infection drainage
  • Shoulder stiffness or frozen shoulder
  • Subacromial decompression
  • Torn or damaged cartilage ring (labrum) or biceps tendon
  • Torn rotator cuff

Total Shoulder joint replacement, to replace a damaged shoulder joint with an artificial implant, is offered when:

  • All non-operative pain-relief treatments have failed
  • Avascular necrosis
  • Failed previous shoulder replacement surgery
  • Failed rotator cuff tear, leading to degenerative arthritis (cuff-tear arthropathy)
  • The joint is severely damaged by arthritis

Reverse total shoulder replacement is an advanced surgical joint replacement technique specifically designed for rotator cuff tear arthropathy, a condition where an individual suffers from both shoulder arthritis and a rotator cuff tear.

Reverse total shoulder replacement may be recommended for the following situations:

  • Completely torn rotator cuff that is difficult to repair
  • Continued shoulder pain despite non-surgical treatments  
  • Presence of cuff tear arthropathy
  • Previous unsuccessful shoulder replacement
  • Severe shoulder pain and difficulty in performing overhead activities

Learn More About The Saint Francis Orthopedic Institute

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 415.353.6380 or email SFMHOrthoCenter@dignityhealth.org or request an appointment online.