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Thousands of Americans suffer from shoulder injuries every year, whether from work, accident, or athletic injury. The results can be severely debilitating, affecting personal and professional life. The shoulder is a complex system that can be damaged in a wide variety of ways, and while non-invasive treatments can often work, in some cases shoulder surgery may be the option you need to choose for full recovery.

An injured shoulder can present with any of a wide variety of symptoms, many of which can be traced to minor injuries that can heal with minimal intervention. However, in cases of severe shoulder injury, symptoms will not lessen over time and surgical intervention may be needed. If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, it may mean you need minor or major shoulder surgery.

  • Radiating shoulder pain starts in the shoulder and extends down and throughout your affected arm. This often means the injury is severe enough to cause the muscles to be affected, although it may also be muscle spasms caused by referred pain. Radiating pain could be a sign of rotator cuff tendonitis, which may require surgery.
  • Arm weakness on the affected side can be a sign of an overuse injury or repeated dislocations causing instability in the shoulder joint.  A serious shoulder injury can make the entire arm feel weak, so this is another sign you could need some form of surgery of alternative treatments don’t help.
  • While shoulder injuries will hurt during physical exertion, the worst injuries mean pain is constant, even when there is and has been no exertion. This means that the injury is so severe it is not healing on its own, so you’ll need treatment which may or may not be surgical in nature.
  • Sleeplessness due to pain occurs again when an injury is so severe that the pain is unrelenting. If constant sleeplessness connected with being unable to find a comfortable position is an issue, it’s time to talk to your doctor about additional treatment or surgical intervention.
  • If lifting or reaching is an issue, you have impaired range of motion. Lifting objects and reaching up or out requires healthy shoulders. Serious injuries that impair physical capability means you may need shoulder surgery.

Only an orthopaedic surgeon can determine if shoulder surgery is needed, and what type of surgery. If the problem is caught early on, and the damage is not too severe, alternative treatments may be sufficient, or minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery can be performed.

Trying to “push through” pain can worsen your injury, and remove less invasive possibilities from the menu, so always have your orthopaedist evaluate you as soon as possible after an injury to minimize healing time and maximize recovery.