Your shoulder joint is actually made up of several joints. Three bones meet in the shoulder — the humerus, the scapula, and the clavicle meet in a complex mechanism held together by muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons.
This intricacy makes it possible to reach things off the top shelf, lift up your kids, and throw a ball, but it’s also the reason that so many things can go wrong in your shoulder joint.
Dr. Damon Christian Kimes at Roswell Pain and Weight Loss Specialists in Roswell, Georgia, treats shoulder pain caused by all kinds of injuries and health conditions. The question he gets most often about this joint is: How do I know when to seek medical care for shoulder pain? Here, he has compiled guidelines to help you assess your shoulder pain and decide when to come see us.
When to treat it at home
Minor aches and pains typically resolve on their own. If you feel a little soreness and discomfort but can still move your shoulder in all directions, you likely have a minor setback that you can treat yourself at home.
The first step is rest. Stop using your shoulder as much as possible. Then, apply ice or a bag of frozen peas to your shoulder for about 15 minutes at a time, three or four times a day. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can also help keep the pain to a minimum. You should feel better in a few days or up to a week.
When to make an appointment to come see us
If your pain persists beyond a week, it’s best to call Dr. Kimes so you can find out exactly what’s going on inside your joint. And even if it’s only been a day or two since the pain started, you should also make an appointment if your pain is accompanied by:
- Significant swelling
- Skin that’s warm to the touch
You may be having an arthritis flare-up or you might have an underlying injury that needs extra care. The best way to know for sure is to get it checked professionally.
Seek medical attention now
Shoulder injuries can be incredibly painful and debilitating. Whether you’ve been in a car accident, suffered a sports injury, or had a serious fall, your shoulder joint can take the brunt of the force and require immediate help. Here are some definite signs you need to come in right away:
- Sudden discoloration and swelling
- Intense pain
- Inability to move your shoulder
You may have torn your rotator cuff, torn a ligament, or dislocated your shoulder. Dr. Kimes can ease your pain and get you started on a treatment plan that will help you recover completely.
It’s an emergency — call 911
Shoulder injuries don’t typically warrant a trip to the emergency room, but shoulder pain is also a characteristic symptom of a heart attack. If you have sudden shoulder pain with no clear cause, call 911 immediately, especially if you also have chest pain or tightness.
What can be done for shoulder pain
Naturally, the treatment for your shoulder pain depends entirely on what’s causing it. If you’ve tried treating your shoulder at home and it’s not getting better or it’s getting worse, Dr. Kimes may suggest corticosteroid injections that deliver anti-inflammatory medication and a local anesthetic directly to the site of your injury. While the effect isn’t permanent, it may give you enough relief to allow you to participate fully in a physical therapy treatment that will help you heal and recover more quickly.
Dr. Kimes also offers cutting-edge regenerative medicine such as platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) that sends healing prostaglandins and growth factors sourced from your own blood to speed up the healing process and repair damaged tissues.
While shoulder pain can slow you down for a while, it doesn’t have to sideline you for long, especially if you come to see Dr. Kimes at the first signs of concern. Contact us by phone or online at our Roswell, Georgia, office to set up an appointment and put your shoulder in the hands of an expert.