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Non-Surgical Treatments for Shoulder Injuries


Man with shoulder pain or shoulder injury

The shoulder joint is known for its extensive range of motion, allowing the arm to move in various directions. However, this increased mobility also makes it more susceptible to injuries.


When it comes to treating shoulder conditions and injuries, Dr. Joseph, an orthopaedic shoulder specialist at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, will recommend non-surgical options as the first line of treatment whenever possible. These methods can be highly effective in reducing pain, improving function, and allowing you to return to your favorite sports or outdoor adventures.


What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Causes of shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can be caused by a variety of factors, such as injury, overuse, repetitive movements, and wear and tear from aging. Some of the shoulder conditions and injuries Dr. Joseph frequently sees include:

  • Rotator cuff injuries: Tears or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and muscles

  • Clavicle fractures: Break in the clavicle bone, which runs from the shoulder to the chest; fractures can also occur in the humerus and scapula bones

  • Shoulder Impingement: Compression of the tendons or bursa in the shoulder

  • Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac in the shoulder

  • Shoulder separations: Sprains or tears of the acromioclavicular joint (AC) ligaments

  • Dislocated shoulders: Displacement of the upper arm bone out of the socket

  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis): Thickening bands of tissue in the shoulder capsule

  • Shoulder arthritis: Degeneration of the cartilage in the shoulder joint

  • Shoulder labrum tears: Tears in the cartilage ring that surrounds the shoulder joint

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Shoulder Issues?

Woman with symptoms of a shoulder injury

The symptoms of shoulder injuries can vary based on the underlying cause, how it developed (gradual or sudden), and how severe it is. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the shoulder joint, especially when lifting, lowering, and reaching up high or behind you

  • Pain when lying or trying to sleep on the affected shoulder

  • Sharp pain if following an acute injury

  • Grinding or popping noise when moving the shoulder

  • Stiffness

  • Limited range of motion

  • Swelling, bruising, or tenderness

  • Arm weakness

  • Tingling or numbness in the shoulder, arm, or hand

  • Visible dislocation or deformity

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain

Physical therapy is recommended treatment option for shoulder pain

When you meet with Dr. Joseph, the first step will be to accurately diagnose the underlying cause of your shoulder pain through a combination of your medical history, an in-depth discussion of your symptoms or injury, a physical examination, and imaging tests if required.


Once a diagnosis is confirmed, Dr. Joseph will work closely with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals. This may include:

  • Rest: Resting the shoulder and avoiding activities that aggravate the pain

  • Ice: Icing to reduce swelling and inflammation

  • Physical therapy: PT is often recommended to reduce stiffness, increase strength, improve flexibility, regain full range of motion, and reduce your risk of future injuries

  • Immobilization: Sling to immobilize the arm and shoulder

  • Medications: Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and reduce inflammation

  • Steroid injection: Cortisone injections can help reduce inflammation and pain control

  • Closed reduction: A non-surgical procedure to reposition a dislocated shoulder

Dr. Joseph will closely monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed to ensure the best possible outcome. Although many people fully recover from shoulder injuries with conservative methods, not every issue can be treated non-surgically. If you've suffered a displaced fracture or severe ligament tear or aren't responding to other less invasive treatments, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery to help you regain full shoulder function.


Contact Vail and Summit County's Orthopaedic Shoulder Specialist


Shoulder pain can be incredibly debilitating, making it difficult to perform even the most basic daily activities. If you've recently injured your shoulder or have been dealing with chronic shoulder pain, contact Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery today.


Dr. Joseph doesn't just treat your symptoms; he gets to the root of your pain with an accurate diagnosis. He then works with you to develop the least-invasive treatment plan that gets you back in the game or to your favorite activities as quickly as possible.


Call (970) 476-7220 to schedule an appointment in Vail, Edwards, or Frisco! You can also request a consultation using Team Joseph's online form.





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