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.