The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. We depend on our shoulders for many activities like lifting groceries, driving and dressing. Shoulder pain due to injury or disease can limit range of motion and get in the way of daily living.

Causes of shoulder pain

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, formed by three bones: the humerus or arm, the scapula or shoulder blade and the clavicle or the collarbone.

The joints allow your arm to rotate in a full circle and elevate it upward, downward, forward and backward. Each joint is surrounded by cartilage to pad the meeting of the bones, ligaments that connect the bones to each other and the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones.

These soft tissues can become damaged from overuse or underuse, from accidents and from conditions that cause gradual deterioration.

Causes of shoulder pain may include:

Shoulder pain symptoms

Shoulder pain may be mild or severe depending on the severity of injury or deterioration. Signs of shoulder injury or disease include:

  • Pain with movement (tingling, numbness or burning sensation)
  • Localized pain or pain that radiates out to arms, neck or back
  • Limited range of motion
  • Tenderness or swelling

Main Line Health has board-certified orthopaedic physicians to diagnose and treat a wide range of shoulder conditions. From conservative, nonsurgical orthopaedic treatments to joint repair and shoulder joint replacement to complex complex shoulder reconstruction surgery, our team of experts will develop a personalized plan of care for each patient.

Shoulder pain diagnosis and treatment options

Our experienced radiologists and orthopaedic specialists work as a team to quickly and accurately diagnose your shoulder pain.

In most cases, conservative, nonsurgical approaches will be recommended before surgery is considered. Many patients will find pain relief and increased function with a combination of medication or injection and physical therapy.

If pain does not subside and imaging confirms a worsening shoulder issue, your orthopaedic provider may discuss surgical intervention.

Treatment options include:

Shoulder pain recovery

Recovery from a shoulder condition will usually include rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers for minor issues. Outpatient physical therapy may be prescribed to help strengthen and condition the shoulder after injury.

For more complex cases involving surgery, your body will need time to heal. Your surgeon and physical therapist will coordinate your recovery, which may include both inpatient and outpatient physical therapy, as well as exercises to do at home. Combined with medication to help manage pain, recovery can take weeks to months depending on the severity of your shoulder condition.

A team approach to shoulder care

At Main Line Health, your shoulder care is a team effort. Your care team will consist of orthopaedic surgeons, radiologists, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, nurses and physical and occupational therapists working together with the goal to alleviate your shoulder pain and restore maximum function.

To schedule an appointment with a shoulder pain specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654)


Shoulder Tear Repair

During arthroscopic surgery, the doctor will examine the rim and the biceps tendon. If the injury is confined to the rim itself, without involving the tendon, the shoulder is still stable.

Shoulder Joint Replacement

Learn more about the total shoulder joint replacement and reverse total shoulder replacement surgeries offered and Main Line Health.

Joint Distension

Joint distension, or hydrodilitation, involves injection of sterile water into the joint to expand the area and help the adhesions loosen and pull away so the shoulder is no longer restricted.

Rotator Cuff Surgery

Minimally invasive rotator cuff surgery is our expertise. Find out from the orthopaedic experts at Main Line Health about the latest treatment options to repair a rotator cuff tear.

Arthroscopy and Arthroplasty

Arthroscopic surgery, also known simply as arthroscopy and arthroplasty are two minimally invasive surgical types. A traditional or open surgical procedure is one that opens up an area fully. Minimally-invasive procedures encompass both small incision surgeries and those with minimally invasive techniques that do not open up an area fully. Arthroscopic surgery

Epidural Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor may recommend epidural steroid injections after other noninvasive treatment approaches have failed to relieve your pain.

Non-Surgical Orthopaedic Treatments

Some orthopaedic conditions are first treated with non-surgical procedures followed by surgery as the next step.

Physical Therapy

Each inpatient and outpatient physical therapy rehab is individually designed and administered by a licensed physical therapist who consistently guides you from that first visit all the way through recovery.


Pain Management

Discover how Main Line Health experts serve Philadelphia by treating a wide range of conditions, including back, neck and oncology-related pain.

Sports Medicine

If you’ve had a sports-related injury or have a condition that’s keeping you out of the game, our sports medicine expert physicians and specialists are here to help you get back to doing the things you love.