Warning Signs Your Shoulder Pain Needs Medical Attention

Your shoulder hurts when you reach, pull up your pants, and brush your hair. Is it just temporary soreness that will eventually go away on its own, or is it something more serious? 

Unless you’re a medical professional, it can be difficult to know when you can just treat your own pain with rest and common sense, or when you should seek medical help. 

We hear stories like this every day at Coastal Ortho. We treat patients from throughout the South Bay area at our offices in El Segundo and Torrance, California, and many of them tell us they weren’t initially sure if they should make an appointment. That’s why our team of specialists has compiled this brief guide to help you assess your shoulder pain and decide when to give us a call.

When to care for your shoulder at home

You use your shoulder a lot, and its unique anatomical design makes it the most mobile joint in your body. While that comes in handy when you reach for a book on the top shelf, scratch your own back, or do a cartwheel, it also means your shoulder is more vulnerable to injury. At any given time, up to 26% of adults experience some degree of shoulder pain. The pain may stem from:

  • Overuse
  • Heavy lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward sleeping position
  • Arthritis
  • Trauma

Rest and ice are often all it takes to ease shoulder pain. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen also reduce inflammation and pain. If your pain persists beyond a week and you still have mobility issues, it’s time to call us. 

When to schedule an appointment for shoulder pain

When at-home care hasn’t improved your shoulder pain, we can help. Here are a few telltale signs to watch for:

  • Pain that worsens even while you rest or sleep
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Redness or significant bruising
  • The joint feels warm to the touch
  • You have a fever
  • You can’t raise your arm

These signs indicate you may have injured a tendon or ligament, or have severe inflammation within the joint. 

We use the latest technology to determine the source of your shoulder pain and develop a targeted treatment plan. In addition to physical therapy and aqua therapy to rehabilitate your injured shoulder, we offer joint injections to reduce inflammation and pain and arthroscopic surgery to repair severely damaged tissues. 

When shoulder pain constitutes an emergency

Sometimes shoulder pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. If you also have chest pain or tightness and shortness of breath, call 911 and get immediate medical attention. 

Shoulder pain can also be a sign of a serious but not life-threatening problem that calls for a trip to urgent care or the ER. Here are some signs you should seek help right away:

  • Intense pain
  • Sudden swelling
  • Deformed joint
  • Complete lack of mobility

These may be symptoms of a joint dislocation or bone fracture

If you’re still not sure what to do, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment — we’re happy to answer all your questions and put your mind at ease. And if your shoulder does need treatment, you won’t find a more friendly or qualified team in the South Bay area to care for your injury and restore your mobility.

Contact us at your nearest location today, or request an appointment online any time.