ZocdocAnswersWhy are my shoulder issues cropping up again?

Question

Why are my shoulder issues cropping up again?

Issue began last year. Started experiencing a dull on/off ache in left deltoid area. Diagnosed with rotator cuff issue of some sort (could tell if it was a tear). Referred for a scan but never got around to it. No treatment. Issues seemed to calm down. A year later, the issue has cropped up again. Shoulder feels odd; not actual pain, but again, on/off aching. Weakness when holding objects out in front of me, or overhead. Doctor again says rotator cuff issue that has likely been there for the past year, but was worsened by something. I was very concerned that the weakness was neurological, and had EMG testing on the arm and shoulder. Test results were normal. I have been to a physical therapist, who, upon palpating the area, also stated rotator cuff issue. Did some soft tissue release, which hurt like heck! I am left side dominant, and the issue is with the left shoulder. What does this sound like to you?

Answer

Shoulder pain can be very frustrating and have a significant impact on your daily life and activities. Although it is impossible to say for sure without examining your shoulder and obtaining more of a history, the details you relate about pain, weakness, and difficulty with specific activities does sound very much like a rotator cuff tear or other pathology. The only way to know for sure is by undergoing the imaging study (likely an MRI with arthrogram) that was recommended earlier. Physical therapy can help with some shoulder problems, but if you have a full rotator cuff tear or problem with another of the structural components of the shoulder, such as the labrum, then surgery may be the only way to definitively treat your problem (with a lot of physical therapy following surgery). Determining whether someone is a candidate for rotator cuff surgery requires imaging and evaluation by a surgeon to go over your prior health history. Depending upon your age, you also may or may not be a candidate for surgery, as physical therapy alone is generally recommended for older patients. In this situation, the best thing for you to do is go back to the primary physician who initially suggested imaging and discuss completing that imaging with potential referral to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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