When to See a Doctor About Shoulder Pain

It's easy to dismiss shoulder pain as an injury that just needs time to heal or the process of getting older. However, while it is a common complaint, it's not something that should be ignored. Getting a proper diagnosis and treatment is the first step on the road to recovery.

Dr. Jeremy Woodson and our highly trained staff are passionate about bringing cutting-edge orthopedic treatments and preventive care to individuals of all ages at our office in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Whether you're an elite athlete, weekend warrior, or someone experiencing chronic joint pain, we provide evidence-based care for shoulder and knee problems, joint issues, sports medicine injuries, and more.

Shoulder pain

As the most mobile joint in the body, the shoulder can rotate 360 degrees moving forward and backward, up and down, and in a circular motion. Three bones — the long arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula) — plus a cushion of cartilage allow an incredible range of motion. 

All this movement is possible due to the shallow nature of the shoulder socket. However, it also has a downside in the form of the potential for pain from stress on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues.


Shoulder pain can come from an injury like a broken bone, a dislocated shoulder, torn cartilage or rotator cuff, or a pinched nerve. Arthritis, bone spurs, swollen tendons or bursa sacs, frozen shoulder, and problems from repetitive use or overuse can also cause discomfort. In addition, seemingly unrelated health concerns can cause shoulder pain, such as a spinal cord injury or a heart attack.

When to see a doctor

Many shoulder pain situations require a trip to our office for a proper diagnosis. These include:

If pain is severe or lasts for more than a few weeks, get a medical evaluation. Shoulder pain that comes on suddenly unrelated to an injury could be a sign of a heart attack and should be taken seriously with a call to 911 or trip to the emergency room.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis typically involves a review of your medical history and a physical exam. Imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI may also be used for more detailed information.

Treatment options depend on the cause and severity of the issue. They can range from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids to physical therapy, immobilization, or surgery. Dr. Woodson even provides advanced regenerative medicine, including stem cell and PRP therapy. 

If you’re experiencing severe shoulder pain or discomfort that has lasted more than several weeks, call our office today at 405-233-3602 for an appointment and evaluation.

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