Shoulder Doctor Guide - What You Should Know

Shoulder doctor discussing pain with patient

Shoulder pain is common among orthopedic patients, especially those whose daily activity involves repetitive use of the arm. Athletes in throwing sports often experience shoulder pain or injuries involving the rotator cuff. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it is important to consult an orthopedic doctor near you to find the cause.  


What Kind of Doctor Should You See for Shoulder Pain or Injury? 

If you are experiencing pain, weakness, or any kind of injury to the shoulder, you should see an orthopedic shoulder doctor. Orthopedic sports medicine and orthopedic hand and upper extremity subspecialists are fellowship-trained orthopedists with expertise in treating conditions in the shoulder.   


5 Signs You Should See a Shoulder Doctor 

  1. Your shoulder pain persists for over 3-6 months 
  1. Your pain is caused by a specific injury that occurred, such as a rotator cuff tear. You may also need to see a surgeon if it is causing weakness in your arm. 
  1. Your shoulder has become dislocated 
  1. Your shoulder suddenly becomes swollen 
  1. You are unable to lift your arm as you normally would 


Common Shoulder Injuries 



Rotator Cuff Injuries 

What is a rotator cuff? 

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and keeps the humerus in the socket of the shoulder, making it one of the most important parts of the shoulder. 

Anyone who repeats the same action with their shoulder is susceptible to a rotator cuff tear, notably, athletes performing throwing motions. Symptoms such as pain, weakness, or loss of muscles could be a sign of a rotator cuff tear.  

Treatments for a torn rotator cuff: 

If the RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) method no longer helps, you will need to seek professional help from an orthopedic shoulder specialist. These physicians are specialized and fellowshipped trained in treating shoulder pain.  

Treatment options such as physical therapy or corticosteroid shots will be the first course of action before a possible surgery to treat the rotator cuff tear. 

Rotator Cuff Repair 

Arthroscopic surgery can be performed to repair a rotator cuff. The surgeon will take the ligaments and put them back into place to restabilize the shoulder. It usually takes a few months to recover with physical therapy and medications. 

Frozen Shoulder 

Your shoulder contains a sort of ‘balloon’ that surrounds the shoulder joint called a capsule. 


Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is when your capsule becomes inflamed or irritated, and then sticks together (adhesive) causing decreased range of motion. Most people become unable to raise their arm above their heads. 

Treatments for Frozen Shoulder 

To treat the early stages of frozen shoulder, stretching can help increase the range of motion. Once you become unable to lift your arm and perform your daily activities, shots or surgery can help loosen the joint. 


Shoulder Dislocation 

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, which you can think of like a golf ball sitting on a tee. When the ball falls off the tee, it hopefully will fall back into place. If not, you will need to pop it back into place by a professional. 

In some cases when a shoulder dislocation occurs, you can tear what is called the labrum. Therefore, it is important to have an orthopedic doctor make sure no tears or further injuries have occurred when it is dislocated. Long-term effects of shoulder dislocation can cause significant shoulder pain. 


Labrum Tear in the Shoulder: 

The labrum provides stability for the ball of the shoulder joint. 


Causes of a Labrum tear in the Shoulder 

A common cause of a labrum tear in the shoulder is a shoulder dislocation. When the shoulder joint ball slips out of the socket, the joint can pull on the lower portion of the labrum and tear it. Sports such as baseball commonly see labrum tears due to the repetitive throwing action. 

Treatment of a Labrum Tear in the Shoulder 

Labrum tears can be treated with the RICE method and physical therapy. If pain persists and the tear does not heal on its own, further treatment such as surgery may need to be performed. 


Shoulder Impingement 

What is Shoulder Impingement? 

Shoulder Impingement occurs when the outer edge of the shoulder blade rubs or pinches the rotator cuff. This causes pain and inflammation in the shoulder. Swimmers or sports that require repetitive throwing can cause shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingements can be diagnosed by an orthopedic specialist. 


Treatment for Shoulder Impingement: 

The RICE method can be used until the pain is stopping you from doing what you love or your daily activities. An orthopedist can also provide a treatment plan for you. This may include physical therapy, medication, or surgery in some cases.  


Questions to Ask Your Shoulder Doctor 

What are the most conservative options to manage my shoulder pain? 

Surgery is a big deal. Our shoulder doctors always recommend the most conservative options to manage pain before jumping into surgery. If the injury can be treated with medications or physical therapy, that should always be the first step. 

Is there anything I can do before surgery to help me post-operation? 

Your surgeon will help prepare you for surgery both in and out of the doctor’s office. Completing all your physical therapy, especially the at-home physical therapy exercises, is important to build strength and help you after surgery. They will also give you all kinds of tips and rules to follow to ensure you get back to what you love. 

How long will my recovery be? 

You’ll want to know how much downtime will be needed. Notify your friends, family, and work aware of the obstacles you may face will help your recovery be smoother. Your shoulder doctor will know the time frame of your recovery and help you through the entire process.  

What types of activities should I stop doing? 

It’s important to be honest and make your shoulder specialist aware of any activities you are doing that may cause further damage to your injury or condition. Even small things such as putting dishes away could cause further damage. Your doctor will know the kinds of activities you can or cannot do until you make a full recovery. 


Success Stories from Our Patients 

Wayne Rosatino with Dr. David Moore 

Wayne has had multiple surgeries with Elite’s orthopedic doctors in Nashville. Dr. David Moore performed a rotator cuff repair after Wayne suffered pain that limited his daily activities. 

“There were times I recall where I would be at the gym, and it would feel like I was being stabbed in the shoulder.” 

With the extremely active lifestyle that Wayne lives, it was difficult to be limited in his daily life, unable to do the things he loves. This is when he knew it was time to see a shoulder surgeon. 

Wayne worked with Dr. Moore, a sports medicine specialist, to develop a treatment plan. Dr. Moore recommended Wayne undergo surgery for his injury and they proceeded with the treatment plan. 

“Everything he predicted was correct, and the surgery went as we anticipated. It took some time and hard work in physical therapy, but I was back to doing pull-ups, dips, and other shoulder intensive exercises a few months later. It was a great result following those initial limitations my shoulder pain brought on. 


Our Shoulder Doctors in Nashville, TN 


Dr. Burton F. Elrod 


Dr. Elrod is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and surgery of the knee, shoulder, and elbow. As one of the pioneers in arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Elrod has performed over 30,000 surgeries in his career and is known for being the trusted orthopedic surgeon in Nashville.  

Dr. David Moore 


Dr. David Moore is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the knee, shoulder and elbow. Dr. Moore was named both Nashville’s Best Orthopedic Doctor by Nashville Fit Magazine, and a Top Doctor in Nashville by Nashville Lifestyles since 2015. 

Dr. Thomas T. Dovan 


Dr. Dovan is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the hand and upper extremity. Dr. Dovan attended medical school at Emory University and completed his residency at Vanderbilt University. Following his residency, he completed a fellowship at the prestigious Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Dovan has been named one of Nashville’s Top Doctors by Nashville Lifestyles Magazine since 2014. 


Dr. Chad T. Price 


Dr. Chad T. Price is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the knee, hip, and shoulder. Dr. Price attended medical school at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and completed his residency at UF Health Shands Hospital and fellowship at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic for Sports Medicine and Shoulder Reconstruction. Dr. Price previously acted as a team physician in the NFL and he currently serves as the team physician for MT. Juliet High School.  


Dr. Samuel Crosby 


Dr. Sam Crosby specializes in hand and upper extremity conditions. Dr. Crosby attended medical school at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also completed a hand and upper extremity fellowship at Harvard University. Dr. Crosby was named a runner-up for Best Orthopedic Physician by Nashville Fit Magazine. 


Dr. Amanda Martin 


Dr. Amanda Martin is a sports medicine orthopedic specialist and treats the knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow. She earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and completed her internship and orthopedic surgical residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Martin completed two fellowships. Dr. Martin is also a team physician for the United States Women's National Soccer Team. 


Dr. Brian Dierckman 


Dr. Brian Dierckman is an orthopedic sports medicine doctor specializing in conditions of the knee, hip, and shoulder. Dr. Dierckman earned his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine and complete his residency at Emory University. He then went on to complete his sports medicine fellowship at the prestigious Southern California Orthopedic Institute (SCOI) in Los Angeles, California.  


Book an Appointment with a Shoulder Doctor Near You 

If you are suffering from shoulder pain, you may need to request an appointment with a shoulder surgeon near you. 


Cassie Whittaker Cassie is the Communications Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2020.

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