When to Consider Surgery for Shoulder Pain

Jun 01, 2023

When to Consider Surgery for Shoulder Pain

A shoulder injury, or slowly increasing pain from arthritis, can be grating to live with. While less invasive treatments are a good starting point, there is a chance you’ll end up needing shoulder surgery.

Whether you’re an athlete who suffered a shoulder injury on the field or court, you’ve spent years in a profession that causes repetitive use damage, or you’re in your senior years and suffering from arthritis in your shoulder, surgery may be the ultimate solution. 

At Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine (AOSM), with locations in Union City and Dyersburg, Tennessee, Dr. Michael CalfeePaxton Sisson PA-C, and the rest of our skilled team analyze the state of your shoulder and discuss whether less-invasive treatments are an option or if shoulder surgery is the best path toward less pain and more mobility.

When shoulder pain might mean surgery is required

How your shoulder hurts, when, and for how long can all be indicators that you might need surgery. If pain is intermittent, can be alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers, icing and/or heat, and rest, you may benefit from minimally invasive treatments for pain.

However, if you have constant pain that defies other treatments, you might need surgical intervention to repair internal damage to your shoulder joint. Here are some red flags when it comes to shoulder pain:

  • Pain that isn’t affected by standard analgesics 
  • Pain that remains present all or most of the time
  • Pain that makes it impossible to sleep at night
  • Pain that’s accompanied by clicking, grinding, popping, or “freezing” of the joint

If one or more of the above symptoms describes what you’ve been experiencing, it’s time to seek medical help and discuss the possibility of shoulder surgery.

The anatomy of your shoulder

The complex joint of the shoulder has a lot of parts to make it strong, flexible, mobile, and capable of a vast range of motion in different directions. Unlike the knee joint, which is a hinge joint, the shoulder allows you to reach up, down, out to the side, and even rotate to twist your arm in front of your chest or behind your back. 

With this many options for movement, there’s no surprise that the inside of the shoulder joint is layer upon layer of muscle, ligament, tendons, and bone. If you’ve hurt your shoulder, any of a wide range of tissue types and shoulder components can be affected.

The shoulder is a ball-in-socket joint like the hip, with a thick ring of protective, rubber cartilage (the labrum) surrounding the socket. A capsule made of a strong membrane filled with synovial fluid surrounds the joint, and four muscles come together to form the rotator cuff, covering the top of the upper arm bone (humerus). 

Shoulder surgeries that could fix your pain for good

When a serious shoulder injury wrecks any part of the shoulder joint, you may wind up with one of the following conditions requiring shoulder surgery.

  • Fractures at the top of the humerus bone inside the shoulder
  • Dislocation of the shoulder joint (ball popping out of socket)
  • Shoulder impingement caused by a swollen rotator cuff
  • Frozen shoulder, caused by inflammation or scarring of capsule tissue
  • Tearing of the rotator cuff or labrum, or Bankart lesions 
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of the fibrous cords attaching muscle to bone)
  • Synovitis (loss of synovial fluid, reducing the cushion protecting the shoulder) 
  • Shoulder separation (dislocation plus severe tears of the rotator cuff and/or labrum) 
  • Chronic shoulder instability (caused by repeated shoulder dislocations or overuse)

No matter what type of shoulder injury you have, our team can help. We run the necessary diagnostics to confirm your diagnosis, then recommend treatment, including shoulder surgery, if necessary, to relieve your pain and restore range of motion. 

Think you might need shoulder surgery, and want to talk to the experts? Just call the AOSM location closest to you, or book an appointment online.