When Should I Worry About Pain In My Shoulder?

Your doctor may try to figure out what’s causing the pain in your back. They’ll ask for your medical records and conduct a physical test.

They’ll examine your range of motion and joint flexibility as well as feel for tenderness and swelling. Imaging tests like an X-ray or an MRI will include detailed images of your shoulder to aid in diagnosis.

Your doctor might even ask you questions to figure out what’s causing the problem. Such examples of possible questions are::

  • Is the pain in one or both shoulders?
  • Is this a new onset of pain? If that’s the case, what were you up to?
  • Is your pain spreading to other parts of your body?
  • Are you able to find the source of your discomfort?
  • Does it hurt if you don’t move?
  • Is it more painful if you travel in those ways?
  • Is it a sharp or a dull ache that you’re experiencing?
  • Is the painful area red, hot, or swollen?
  • Is your suffering keeping you up at night?
  • What causes it to get worse and what causes it to get better?
  • Have you had to cut down on your activities due to shoulder pain?

When should I seek medical help?

If you have a fever, are unable to lift your shoulder, have persistent swelling, heat and tenderness around the joint, or have pain that continues after a few weeks of home care, you should see a doctor.

Call 911 right away if your shoulder pain is sudden and not connected to an injury. It may be an indication of a heart attack. Other symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

  • chest constriction 
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness 
  • heavy sweating
  • and neck or jaw pain

If you have an injury to your shoulder and it is bleeding, swelling, or you can see exposed skin, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away.

Shoulder Pain Prevention

Given how often you use your shoulder on a daily basis, both at work and at play, it’s prudent to take precautions to protect it:

  • If you sit at a desk all day, make sure your chair provides adequate back support and promotes good posture.
  • At least once an hour, take a break and walk about.
  • If your work needs heavy lifting, follow these steps: Face the object you’re carrying, maintain a straight back, and bend your knees to generate strength with your legs.
  • Using a stool or ladder to get a better spot when reaching for something big above your head.
  • Consult your doctor about a conditioning program to improve and maintain the muscles around your shoulders.

Call 911 to seek emergency medical help.

Shoulder pain that is followed by trouble breathing or a feeling of tightness in the chest may be a sign of a heart attack and should be treated right away.

Seek immediate medical attention

If your shoulder pain is exacerbated by an accident and is followed by other symptoms, have someone take you to urgent care or the emergency room:

  • A deformed joint is one that tends to be crooked.
  • Inability to move your arm away from your body or use the joint
  • Intense discomfort
  • Swelling that occurs suddenly

Schedule a clinic visit

If your shoulder pain is followed by other symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness and comfort in the area of the joint
  • Redness


To relieve a little pain on your shoulder you might try:

  • Analgesics are pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are all over-the-counter pain relievers that can help.
  • Take a break. Using the shoulder in ways that don’t cause or aggravate discomfort.
  • It’s ice. Apply an ice pack to your sore shoulder several times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

Self-care and a little time are often all that’s needed to alleviate shoulder pain.

Are You Looking for Shoulder Pain Relief? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in non-surgical shoulder pain relief and recovery therapies.  We pride ourselves on offering the best possible physical therapy available and going above and beyond for our patients. Physical therapy, without the need for harmful drugs or unnecessary surgery, is a safe, simple and convenient way to find relief from shoulder pain. A variety of problems resulting in shoulder pain have been treated by our physical therapists, with patients experiencing progress and relief after just a few short sessions, and even fewer! We will develop a specialized mix of physical therapy approaches to treat and alleviate your pain once we have identified the source of your shoulder pain. Gentle manual therapy helps to restore natural joint mobility, relieve constraints on soft tissue, and facilitate circulation while restoring strength and the proper sequence of muscle activation around the shoulder joint through precise therapeutic exercises. Finally, we teach you strategies to strengthen your power and to stop the recurrence of future shoulder problems. Don’t let your pain in your shoulder hinder your physical skills any longer! Our physical therapy practice in San Jose, CA, will give you the support you need to once again start living your regular life. To schedule your appointment and get started on your journey towards pain relief, contact Pace Physical Therapy today. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!