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"I cannot lift my arm and my shoulder is so painful. What could be wrong?"


My shoulder hurts so much and I cannot lift my arm. This is going on now for 2 months. I am a 56 year old woman and overweight. Some days I think it is getting better. Should I see a specialist and if so what kind? Is there any exercises I could do at home to help the healing process? All I take is OTC Ibuprofen for the pain.


Shoulder pain can have many different causes because there are multiple bones, muscles, and tendons in the area that can be injured. The key to your treatment is to first determine what is wrong. This will require a physical exam by a physician.

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If you are having trouble lifting your arm above your head, you may have a problem with your rotator cuff. This type of problem most often can be handled by physical therapy and exercises. Major injuries to the rotator cuff sometimes require surgery. Another part of the shoulder which can cause problems is the cartilage in the joint. Small tears in this cartilage can cause significant amounts of pain. Finally, pain in the back or in the neck can be referred to the shoulder making it seem like the shoulder pain is the biggest problem. The best first step for you to take is to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can perform a comprehensive physical exam on your shoulder and determine where the problem is (joint, rotator cuff, or other). If it is a problem with your rotator cuff, then you may benefit initially from physical therapy and pain relief from Acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory (which ever your doctor chooses). You may eventually warrant a referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.