Shoulder Pain: Evaluation, Tests, and Diagnosis

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

Shoulder pain ranks third as the most common musculoskeletal complaint. Around 5% of the musculoskeletal consults in a family physician’s office are related to shoulder pain. It is also a common cause of orthopedic surgery, only exceeded by knee pain. Moreover, shoulder pain is also a common complaint among athletes. Depending on the population, 8 to 13% of athletic injuries are associated with shoulder pain.

When patients come to the emergency room or the physician’s office with shoulder pain, one of the challenges is identifying the cause among a myriad of potential diagnoses. A single type of shoulder pain can be caused by multiple disorders, but doctors start ruling out one after another from when patients enter the office. For instance, they would rule out a few diagnoses by looking at the patient’s age.

When patients are younger than 30, the most common causes are biomechanical problems and trauma. They can also have mild inflammatory issues. A complete rotator cuff tear is very rare in young men and usually happens after 45 years of age. Still, the rotator cuff is commonly affected, even if there is no complete tear. That’s why doctors need to perform different maneuvers and a physical exam to evaluate the exact source of the pain.

In this article, we will cover a few to get you as a patient prepared for an upcoming visit.