Shoulder Specialist

Urgently Ortho

Orthopedic Urgent Care & Sports Medicine Clinic

Shoulder Q & A

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The severe shoulder pain associated with an injury or dislocation leaves no doubt that you need medical attention. Moderate shoulder pain should never be ignored, however, because it could signal an underlying condition that may worsen without treatment. Ephraim Dickinson, MD and Brieana Brady, PA-C at Urgently Ortho have extensive experience treating your shoulder pain and providing therapies to prevent future problems. If you have questions about shoulder pain, call one of the offices in San Francisco or use the online booking tool to schedule an appointment.

What causes shoulder pain?

Your shoulder consists of one major joint called the glenohumeral joint and a smaller joint called the acromioclavicular joint or AC joint. A healthy functioning shoulder requires support from a group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. Common causes of shoulder pain can be damage to the cartilage of the shoulder, tears of the labrum caused by shoulder dislocations, tears of the rotator cuff, or bursitis.

Your rotator cuff is especially susceptible to injuries and problems that cause shoulder pain. You may experience pain in various locations, including your shoulder blade, front, or top of the shoulder depending on the cause of your symptoms. 

The team at Urgently Ortho commonly treat the following causes of shoulder pain.

Rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff injury includes partial or complete tearing of the tendons of the rotator cuff. An acute injury generally causes rotator cuff tears, but in some cases, more chronic tears can be associated with age-related degenerative changes, overuse, and daily wear and tear over time.

Shoulder impingement

Often called “swimmer’s shoulder,” this occurs when you lift your arm and the top of your shoulder blade rubs or impinges on your rotator cuff tendons. Impingement leads to bursitis and tendinitis which can lead to reduced motion in your shoulder and pain, especially with overhead activities.

Shoulder dislocation or instability

When your shoulder comes out of its normal position, a dislocation occurs. Such an event will usually cause severe pain and instability in your shoulder. Your shoulder can dislocate forward, backward, or downward, but the most common dislocation is when the upper arm bone or humerus moves forward and out of the socket.

Shoulder dislocations are also associated with other injuries and can lead to something called anterior instability. The trauma from dislocation can lead to tears in the labrum which is a cartilage bumper that surrounds the socket. Once you have a torn labrum, dislocations can recur more frequently. It is also possible to partially dislocate your shoulder, an injury known as shoulder subluxation.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis. It develops slowly over time, causing progressive cartilage degeneration, pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness. Shoulder dislocations and fractures can increase your risk of post-traumatic arthritis.


A fall or high-energy injuries, such as a car accident or contact sports injury, often cause shoulder fractures. The fracture may affect many bones, including the humerus, scapula, and the clavicle or collarbone.

Other problems that could be causing your shoulder pain include:

  • Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis
  • Labral tears or Bankart lesions
  • Shoulder separation
  • Pulled arm muscles
  • Pulled shoulder muscle
  • Shoulder strain
  • Scapular dyskinesia

How is shoulder pain treated?

Your treatment at Urgently Ortho is always customized to meet your individual needs. Based on the cause and severity of your shoulder pain, your treatment may include one or more of the following.

  • Change in activities to rest your shoulder
  • Shoulder exercises
  • Using a sling to take the weight off your shoulder
  • Physical therapy to diminish pain and inflammation, restore strength, and regain movement
  • Medications to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Shoulder arthroscopy surgery to diagnose, repair, and treat pain in the shoulder joint
  • Open shoulder surgery to remove scar tissue, repair torn tendons, stabilize your shoulder, or replace your shoulder

Don’t continue to suffer from shoulder pain or immobility. Call Urgently Ortho or use online booking to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dickinson today.


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