How To Diagnose Shoulder Injuries

Finding the right shoulder surgeon to properly diagnose and treat your shoulder pain and discomfort can be intimidating. It is important before going to see a doctor that you keep track of your symptoms and take note of any pain you are experiencing.

Your pain could be coming from one of many different types of shoulder problems, including arthritis, fractures, dislocations, or joint or ligament injuries. Shoulder injuries can result in symptoms ranging anywhere from stiffness, instability, mild to severe discomfort, or extreme pain and immobility.

Possible shoulder conditions may include:

> Sprains

> Strains

> Torn Ligaments

> Shoulder Arthritis

> Joint inflammation

> Conditioning issues

> Fractures

> Anatomical alignment issues

> Glenoid Labrum Tears

> Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

> SLAP Tear

Self Diagnosis:

Rotator Cuff

Your shoulder hurts, particularly when doing overhead activities; pain wakes you from sleep when you roll over on that side; you think you remember falling on it or injuring it in some way. An injury to the rotator cuff affects the muscles and tendons that elevate, rotate, and stabilize the arm. The diagnosis can be made from a physical examination, x-rays, and confirmed by an MRI. Treatment includes exercise and rehabilitation if the rotator cuff is only injured, rather than torn or cut off. In these cases, surgery is required as an arthroscopic approach.

AC Joint

In the case of an AC (acromioclavicular joint) joint issue, you can confirm that you fell on your shoulder, and there is now a physical bump present. Depending on the size of the bump and the stability of it, the shoulder can receive various treatments. Taping the shoulder can lead to better healing and significant pain relief.

Dislocated Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder of the anterior is often a tear of the glenohumeral ligament, the key stabilizer for the shoulder. For an athletic person, this can often be taken care of by outpatient arthroscopic techniques. For people who dislocate their dominant arm, and are playing sports, repairing the ligament is especially important. Successful diagnosis may include physical examination, x-rays, and confirmed by an MRI ordered by a shoulder surgeon.


This type of shoulder issue causes pain during overhead activities, but probably does not wake the patient from sleep. Bursitis is a syndrome where the bursa along the rotator cuff has become inflamed and irritated. This can be treated by anti-inflammatories and careful exercise. Sometimes, cortisone shots can help reduce inflammation. Diagnosis is made with a careful physical exam. Sometimes, if your surgeon is unsure about a possible injury to the rotator cuff, an MRI can confirm the diagnosis.

AC Joint Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common condition in people experiencing shoulder pain. It is associated with pain that did not begin as a result of injury, and with pain that worsens when the arm is extended above the head. This is a degenerative disease of the joint that worsens as the patient ages. Diagnosis can only be confirmed by a careful physical exam, and an MRI may be utilized to rule out more serious conditions. AC Joint Arthritis is extremely common among persons who use their arms for extended periods of time including constant overhead lifting, weightlifters, or persons who have worked in the construction field for many years. Treatment may include physiotherapy, anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, and in advanced cases, surgery by a skilled shoulder surgeon.

These are only a few common problems that can occur with the shoulder. Proper diagnosis can really only be achieved by charting your symptoms as they occur and seeking the professional advice of a practicing shoulder surgeon.