Shoulder pain diagnosis?

Yeah, probably rotator cuff, but anyway:

I have some tightness in roughly this area:
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I’ve broken the link because it contains an image of a man without a shirt, which could be considered NSFW. Anyway. . .

I’ve had some tightness in that area for months. Not any noticeable deficits in range of motion or strength, but I do feel some twinges when I do certain motions.

So. . . Assuming it’s some of the more likely common shoulder ailments, at what point should I consider having it looked at? I’m not averse to going to doctors, but if it’s something they can’t do anything about anyway, I don’t want to waste money. At the same time, if it is something that can be treated, I don’t want to wait too long if it means fixing it will be more involved.

And, frankly, if it comes to pain or surgery somewhere down the line, I might be more inclined to live with the pain as long as possible. The one person I know personally who has had shoulder surgery didn’t feel that it made that much of a difference.


I had a painful shoulder at some point, it took something like six weeks or two months to clear up on its own. I didn’t go to the doctor.

However, if it’s bad enough that you see surgery in your future, you may want to consult a doctor and get treatment sooner rather than later, the problem in your shoulder could lead you to use it in weird ways that may harm other parts. Also, you don’t want to train your nerves/brain to get used to chronic pain because they may continue to sense it even after the physical reason for it has been fixed.

Go to the doctor. I have a torn rotator cuff in one shoulder and a torn labrum in the other. Both were very effectively treated with physical therapy. I went from being in agonizing daily pain to having rare or nonexistent pain and a very slightly reduced range of motion. Although several orthopedists suggested surgery at various times, and it’s still an option if I feel I need it, the physical therapy has been perfectly adequate for my needs. If either of my shoulders starts to hurt again, I just go back in for a few more sessions.

Go get it checked out. You at least want to find out if there is a physical therapy option to help reduce or eliminate the pain. It’s low risk, not very expensive, and definitely worth it if it works.

In my case, it was osteoarthritis - which is incurable and progressive.

But there is a simple surgical fix for the shoulder: Mumford Procedure.

As with many progressive maladies: sooner treatment, better outcome.

In any case, don’t screw around with your health. And “toughing it out” is a fool’s game.

Now GO!

In my case, a pinched nerve. Rolling a golf ball on it relieved it :slight_smile:

In my case it was adhesive capsulitis (aka frozen shoulder). The capsule is some structure under the rotator cuff, as I understand it. Also cured completely with physical therapy, which included lessons on movements to practice which make it less likely to recur.

Had an MRI, and I was frankly expecting surgery but the specialist (almost) laughed at me and said a) surgery wasn’t needed and b) surgery couldn’t fix it anyway. A few weeks later, good as new. Haven’t had any problem since.

Not sure what you mean by ‘tightness’, so not sure my reply will apply.

I had a quickly diminishing range of motion of one of my shoulders.
The doc said it was common for my age ('50s) and commonly called ‘frozen shoulder’.
The phys. therapist showed me how to gradually move it in all the directions it didn’t want to go - using a hard back chair, door frame and holding the ends of a towel in ea hand and using the good shoulder to pull the frozen one - to a point that was just barely tolerable and holding for a few secs.
The PT gradually worked, and because of the co-pay and I was seeing progress, I didn’t go back after the 2nd session.

I have had increasing pain in one shoulder for about two years. I finally went to a doctor a few weeks ago and he sent me to physical therapy, which I am still doing. It seems to be helping but they said it takes 4-6 weeks to see results. He considers surgery a last resort since I’m not some kind of elite athlete. Your problem could be multiple things but see an orthopedist. They will help and if you don’t want surgery, don’t get surgery.

My appointment started with that phrase I dread, “At your age…” Apparently today’s more active older guys get a lot of rotator cuff issues. Although my PT can’t repair damage, it can shore up the supporting tissue to reduce or eliminate the pain.

I am not going to compete in the shot put, I just want to be able to change the radio station in my car without pain.

P.S. Your link ain’t broken, works fine. Although I see nothing NSFW about something it. Clinical.

Same here-- I had a sore shoulder off and on for months- figured it was a small rotator cuff tear because a friend had surgery for it and it sounded like a milder version of the same symptoms he had. But when I finally asked the doc about it he said it was adhesive encapsulitis. Thing is, I had avoided any exercise with the shoulder thinking it would aggravate a rotator cuff tear, when exercise was exactly what I needed. So it’s a good idea to find out for sure. The shoulder is fine now.

I have a bad right shoulder after a couple dislocations. I had an anterior tear in the labrum and some scar tissue buildup on my rotator cuff. I had the arthroscopic shoulder surgery but it was two years after the initial accident. Although more invasive I should have just gotten the open shoulder surgery as that would of likely yielded a better outcome. After the Arthroscopic surgery my shoulder felt tight again for about a month or so and then became exactly how it was before the surgery.

I have a lot of what is called subluxation on a daily basis where I can feel it partially dislocate again, I may have the open shoulder surgery one day if it continues to bother me enough but it hasn’t gotten to the point yet where I want to go through another surgery.

In my case it’s bursitis.

Even for an “elite athelete” surgery should be considered a last resort to be used to repair or resection tramatic damage that won’t heal on its own. A goodly portion of problems with the shoulder joint that are not due to penetrating or separating trauma can be effectively treated by physical therapy and strength training/conditioning to both increase flexiblity and strength in the joint. The kettlebell armbar is particularly good for this, as are various steel club conditioning exercises (using lighter weight clubs to start) and bodyweight pulling exercises (using gymnastic rings or a suspension trainer like the TRX). Flexible bands (e.g. Rogue mobility bands or similar) can also be used to apply controlled traction in various orientations to progressively improve range of motion. I recommend checking out Becoming a Supple Leopard and *Kettlebell Rx: The Complete Guide for Athletes and CoacheS* for more detail, but of course if you are new to kettlebell/steel club/mobility band training seek out a physical therapist experienced in athletic prehab/rehab to get proper instruction.


After my progress backslid I went back for an MRI and the doc said his initial take on a rotator cuff tear was incorrect, and that I had osteoarthritis.

So similar symptoms could indicate many different causes. Strength and flexibility exercises can still help, although the doctor said he does not send people to physical therapy for this. He added that in the future I could end up a candidate for a shoulder replacement.

5 minute deep tissue massages where the thumbs really dig into the muscles can have dramatic effects on extremely bad shoulders. I suffered with shoulder problems most of my adult life, crippling pain and unable to raise my arm. I started getting the 5 minute deep tissue massages and my problems now quicly resolve themselves, very often with one or two massages.

Aaaaaand. . . on the odd case that anyone is interested, I did go do the doctor,and diagnosis confirmed. Frozen shoulder. Seems to be easing up a bit recently.

Going to the doctor is a good idea (which, clearly, you did). When I messed up my shoulder a few years back, I did a few things to it. Trying to ‘loosen’ it, I was always moving it around, running my arm through it’s full range of motion (think, like swimming), moving my shoulder etc, just trying to keep it loose. I’d especially push it through the parts that were more painful, the same way you try to loosen a cramped muscle.

Now, on the one hand that’s good, if you don’t use it, it’ll freeze. The problem was, that one of my issues was shoulder impingement. All that moving around was just making it worse (or not letting it get better). As it was explained to me, some of those muscles are inflamed. The parts of my range of motion that hurt are where I was rubbing them against bone. That just made the inflammation worse.
A few months of (painful, let’s be fair) physical therapy cleared up the impingement. I did still have to have surgery to fix the torn labrum, however. Also, I asked what would happen if I didn’t have the surgery and they said it was likely I could end up with arthritis forming in that area. Not something I wanted in my early 30’s.

Anyways, my rule of thumb for if you should get something checked out, when you’re not sure, is if it still hurts a few days or weeks later, as much as it did when you initially injured it. I heard a pop when I hurt myself. Two weeks later, the pain hadn’t subsided at all.

If you are a couch potato, you might have a potator cuff injury. If so, it’s serious.