October 17, 2017

Expert Q&A – Shoulder Pain: Causes and Treatments

In this Q&A with David Pope, MD, we address the basics when it comes to shoulder pain.

Q: What are some of the most common reasons for shoulder pain?

A: The most common cause of shoulder pain that we [Mission Community Orthopedics and Sports Medicine] treat is what is referred to as “shoulder impingement.” This is an inflammation of the rotator cuff and bursa in the shoulder. Typically, patients start noticing pain in the shoulder that radiates into the upper arm toward the elbow. In most cases, there is no history of injury. The pain is worse with overhead use of the shoulder and reaching back like you would be getting something out of the back seat of your car. The pain can also be more noticeable at night.

Q: What are some things people can do at home to help alleviate the pain without having to visit the doctor?

A: Initial treatment can include avoiding activities or positions that increase the pain. Another option is a short course of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, but only if no contraindication exists. Also helpful is ice, which can help reduce the pain.

Q: At what point should someone see their doctor?

A: If the pain persists and is not improved after a couple of weeks of in-home treatments, it may be time to have an evaluation by a healthcare provider for further recommendations.


David Pope, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with Mission Community Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Spruce Pine and Asheville Orthopaedic Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health.

To make an appointment, call (828) 766-3555 or visit mission-health.org/boneandjoint to learn more.

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