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Shoulder Pain: Rotator Cuff Injury or Frozen Shoulder?

New Orleans orthopedic surgeon

According to New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer, rotator cuff injuries are one of the most common causes of shoulder pain, but not the only one. A condition commonly referred to as the frozen shoulder is often mistaken for a rotator cuff problem because it can copy the symptoms of rotator cuff injuries in its early stages.

A rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, and pain is typically caused by overuse or a direct injury. Frozen shoulder is caused by a stiffening of the shoulder capsule, which is the connective tissue that encases the bones, ligaments, and tendons of the shoulder. Over time, the shoulder becomes very hard to move.

Your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon is able to evaluate how limited the patient’s range of motion has become and take x-rays of the shoulder to determine what type of injury has occurred.  During a physical examination, your orthopedic doctor will press on different parts of your shoulder and move your arm into different positions to determine the cause of your pain.

If you have a rotator cuff injury, your range of motion may be limited by pain, but your doctor should be able to manually lift your arm. Frozen shoulder will restrict your range of motion, and neither you nor your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon will be physically capable of raising your arm past a certain point.

Rotator cuff injuries can result from an inflammation of the joint or from a torn tendon. Inflammation can be successfully treated with rest, physical therapy, and medication, while most cases of rotator cuff tears will require surgery.

Frozen shoulder develops slowly, and passes through three stages as it resolves itself.

  1. Freezing stage: Any movement of your shoulder causes pain, and your shoulder’s range of motion starts to become limited.
  2. Frozen stage: Pain may begin to diminish during this stage; however, your shoulder becomes stiffer and using it becomes more difficult.
  3. Thawing stage: The range of motion in your shoulder begins to improve.

Most frozen shoulder treatment involves controlling shoulder pain and preserving as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible through physical therapy, steroid injections, and medication.

Fortunately, within our community, your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon is trained to diagnose and treat all types of shoulder injuries – both surgically and non-surgically – and return patients to their normal lives and routines as quickly as possible.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, call the office of New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer today to schedule a consultation so we can determine what is causing your pain and provide proper treatment. Let’s get you pain-free!