Why You Shouldn’t Delay Shoulder Treatment & When to Seek Medical Attention

Jun 30, 2020

J. Steve Smith, M.D.

When should patients seek medical attention for shoulder pain, weakness, or loss of function:

Err on the side of sooner vs later

The cause of shoulder pain and dysfunction may be a result of an acute injury or more of a chronic buildup.  Regardless, untreated shoulder issues can become quite debilitating and may complicate available treatment options or render them less successful.


When should patients seek immediate medical attention for their shoulder?

    • Complete loss of control or strength in your shoulder
    • Intense pain that cannot be subdued with over the counter medicines and ice
    • Associated numbness or weakness in your elbow and hand
    • Visual deformity in your shoulder vs non injured shoulder
    • Warmth, swelling and redness around the shoulder joint
    • Fall or traumatic injury with resultant intense pain and/or loss of function


If your shoulder issues do not exactly meet these criteria, then 1-2 weeks of rest, ice and over the counter medicines are advisable to see if symptoms resolve.  If not, then make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation.  Many shoulder problems can be successfully treated with non-operative interventions to dramatically, and quickly, improve quality of life.

It is not advisable for patients to wait for months before seeking medical care for persistent shoulder pain and weakness.  In doing so, patients may inadvertently limit surgical options and surgical success rates should that need arise.

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Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic

4130 Dutchman's Lane,
Suite 300,Louisville 40207
(502) 897-1794

Northgate Medical Center

3605 Northgate Court,
Suite 207,New Albany 47150
(812) 920-0408

Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic
4130 Dutchman's Lane
Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40207

Northgate Medical Center
3605 Northgate Court
Suite 207
New Albany, IN 47150