Shoulder treatment and surgery

Lingering pain, stiffness, weakness or instability in your shoulder are signs that it may be time to see a doctor. Not all shoulder injuries and conditions require surgery, but some do. Orthopedic surgeons at HonorHealth can help determine whether nonsurgical treatments might ease your pain or if shoulder surgery offers your best chance at finding relief.

How the shoulder works

One of the most complex joints in the body, the shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint. Its three bones are:

  • Humerus (upper arm bone)
  • Scapula (shoulder blade)
  • Clavicle (collarbone)

As a ball-and-socket joint, the shoulder depends on an elaborate system of muscles, tendons and ligaments for stability and to help it move smoothly and rotate properly.

At the top of the humerus is the ball. It rests on a socket called the glenoid, which is part of the scapula. Soft tissue called labrum surrounds the socket and stabilizes the joint along with the ligaments. The deltoid and rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder allow the humerus to move and rotate in the socket. This lets you raise and rotate your arm. When an acute or chronic injury interferes with the joint's ability to move and rotate, pain, stiffness, weakness and instability can set in.


Causes of shoulder pain

Causes of acute and chronic shoulder pain, stiffness and other symptoms include muscle injuries, arthritis in the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) and general wear and tear to the cartilage in the joint. Orthopedic shoulder specialists treat all types of shoulder injuries and conditions that may be caused by or related to:

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis (inflammation around the joint)
  • Tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons), including biceps tendonitis
  • Fractures or dislocations to the clavicle (collarbone) or other bones that make up the shoulder
  • Muscle tears, including rotator cuff tears
  • Shoulder impingement that occurs when bones and tendons rub, making it painful to lift your arm

Cartilage in the shoulder lets the bones move smoothly against one another. The degenerative effects of arthritis can break down that cartilage, causing progressive pain, discomfort and even loss of motion.

Finding the right treatment for your shoulder injury or condition starts with an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may use a variety of medical imaging technologies and in-office exams to identify the exact location and cause of your shoulder pain or irritation.

Medical imaging procedures that may be used to evaluate and diagnose your shoulder injury include:

  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • CT scans
  • Ultrasound

Treatment of shoulder pain

In most cases, your doctor will begin by exploring nonsurgical options such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Injection of an anti-inflammatory medication
  • Lifestyle and activity modification

If nonsurgical options don't alleviate your pain or ease your other symptoms, it may be time for shoulder surgery. When possible and appropriate, orthopedic surgeons at HonorHealth choose arthroscopic outpatient surgery. This is a minimally invasive surgical approach that:

  • Allows smaller incisions
  • Results in less scarring
  • Reduces the need for pain medication
  • Results in a faster recovery

Orthopedic shoulder specialists at HonorHealth perform some of the most complex shoulder surgeries, including shoulder revision surgery. Regardless of the type of shoulder surgery you undergo, the goals include reducing pain and improving function.

Types of shoulder surgery performed at HonorHealth include:

Your HonorHealth orthopedic surgeon will collaborate with your primary care physician to ensure that you receive the best possible care and treatment. Depending on the recommended treatment or surgical approach, your surgeon may also work with a physical therapist, anesthesiologist, hospitalist, orthopedic nurses and others in the hospital to provide personalized care and attention throughout your treatment.