Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be a terrible burden, preventing you from carrying out daily tasks such as picking up your child, working or participating in sports. If you suffer from any kind of shoulder pain - whether the source is arthritis or an injury - our team of experts at the University of Michigan Sports Medicine Program can help you.

We treat the full scope of shoulder pain problems, including:

  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Shoulder arthritis
  • Sports injuries (throwing motions, swimming motions, tennis motions, tendon overuse and shoulder dislocation)

At the University of Michigan, we use a range of advanced surgical and non-surgical treatments to get you back to your daily life.

Note: If you have suffered a shoulder trauma, from a fall to a sports injury, it's important for you to seek treatment right away or you could risk further complications such as stiffness, muscle loss or a malunion (in which a fracture or break heals in a bad position that is difficult to undo). Getting a diagnosis quickly means that we can treat you while the injury is simpler to treat, which leads to a better chance for healing. 

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

When you come to the University of Michigan:

  • We will take your complete medical history, ask you about your pattern of symptoms and do a physical exam.
  • We will consult with your referring physician, if there is one.
  • We may conduct tests such as X-rays, blood tests and muscle biopsies.

Then we will use all of this information to develop an individualized treatment plan for you. 

Non-surgical Treatment for Shoulder Pain

For the issues we suspect may not require surgery, we will begin non-surgical treatment. In our experience, about 75 percent of the time shoulder injuries do, in fact, heal without surgery. Here are a few things your doctor may suggest to relieve your symptoms:

  • Medicine
  • Exercise
  • Heat
  • Ice
  • Pain-relieving gels or creams such as capsaicin 
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Diathermy - uses heat to increase blood flow throughout the shoulder for pain relief and quick healing
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy - uses magnets to produce an electrical pulse that may help cartilage grow
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS - uses a mild electrical current to reduce pain
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises - such as meditation, guided imagery and yoga 

Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Pain

If we know your injury will not resolve on its own or with non-surgical treatments, we may recommend surgery. Surgery also may be inevitable if you have a structural problem that isn't going to heal. This could include a rotator cuff tear, loss of cartilage or bone spurs.

A variety of shoulder surgeries are available, including shoulder replacement, which is very successful for relieving pain and improving function in patients with shoulder arthritis. We also offer surgical techniques for arthritic shoulders that also have rotator cuff tears, such as the reverse shoulder replacement, which reverses the locations of the ball and socket in the shoulder.

U-M Offers Rare Shoulder Joint Replacement Surgery

The University of Michigan Health System is one of the few hospitals in the area that offers a rare, advanced surgery that uses bone and cartilage from deceased donors to sculpt a new shoulder joint. We do this surgery when the ball or socket are so severely damaged that there isn't enough support for the joint to stay in place. This complicated technique requires an expert team that specializes in shoulder surgery, and we have performed many of these surgeries. 

Our Approach to Care

As part of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Center, we collaborate with multiple disciplines, including

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Physical Therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Radiology
  • Rheumatology

Our integrated, multidisciplinary approach to patient care enables us to develop an individualized plan for your treatment. 

Our goal is to improve the quality of your life.

Contact Us / Make an Appointment

  • MedSport, 877-877-9333, or 734-930-7400
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), 734-936-7175

You're about to make an important decision, and we want to help you make a good one. Visit our Contact Us page to see a list of Musculoskeletal Call Centers. Our staff will be glad to talk with you about your options and how we can help.