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Pain, shoulder

 

Shoulder pain is a symptom rather than a condition in itself. Shoulder disorders are the most common causes of shoulder pain.

Shoulder disorders

Examples of shoulder disorders include:

  • frozen shoulder - a painful condition that reduces normal movement in the joint and can sometimes prevent movement in the shoulder altogether 
  • rotator cuff disorders - the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and help to keep it stable 
  • shoulder instability - where the shoulder is unstable and has an unusually large range of movement (hypermobility) 
  • acromioclavicular joint disorders - conditions that affect the acromioclavicular joint, which is the joint at the top of the shoulder

How common are shoulder disorders?

Shoulder disorders are fairly common. About 3 in 10 adults are affected by these types of conditions at any one time.

Frozen shoulder and rotator cuff disorders are most common in middle-aged and older people. Shoulder instability and acromioclavicular joint disorders tend to affect younger people, particularly men who play certain sports. For example:

  • sports that involve repetitive shoulder movements, such as overarm bowling or throwing
  • contact sports, such as rugby, where you may injure or fall on your shoulder

Outlook

Shoulder pain can be a long-term problem. Up to half of people still have symptoms after 18 months. It is therefore important to obtain the correct diagnosis so that you can receive effective treatment for your symptoms.

Several treatment options are available for shoulder pain. They include:

  • painkillers - such a paracetamol  
  • physiotherapy - where physical methods, such as massage and manipulation, are used to promote healing
  • injections of corticosteroids- corticosteroids are a type of medication that contain hormones 
  • surgery (in some cases)

See Shoulder pain - treatment for more information about the different treatment options. In most cases, shoulder disorders improve over time if the relevant treatment advice is followed.

Alternative causes

There are a number of other conditions, which are not covered in this article, that can also cause shoulder pain.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints and causes damage to the cartilage and mild swelling of the tissues around the joints (synovitis). Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue that lines the ends of bones and allows the joints to move easily.
 
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint, but it mostly occurs in the knees, hips and the small joints of the hands. It can also affect the: 

  • acromioclavicular joint – the joint at the top of the shoulder (acromioclavicular osteoarthritis) 
  • glenohumeral joint – the main ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder (glenohumeral osteoarthritis)

Shoulder pain can also be caused by a broken bone (fracture) – for example, a fracture of the humerus (upper arm bone) or collar bone.

Shoulder pain can be caused by a number of different conditions, including:

  • frozen shoulder
  • rotator cuff disorders
  • shoulder instability 
  • acromioclavicular joint disorders

These conditions are described below.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful, persistent stiffness of the shoulder joint, which makes it very difficult to carry out the full range of normal shoulder movements.

Frozen shoulder occurs when there is thickening, swelling and tightening of the flexible tissue that surrounds your shoulder joint. This leaves less space for your upper arm bone (humerus) in the shoulder joint and makes any movement stiff and painful.

You may find it difficult to carry out everyday tasks, such as dressing, driving and sleeping comfortably. Some people are unable to move their shoulder at all.

The symptoms of frozen shoulder can vary greatly from person to person, but they tend to advance slowly. The symptoms are usually felt in three stages, which are spread over a number of months or years. The different stages of frozen shoulder are briefly described below.

Stage 1

During stage 1 of frozen shoulder, your shoulder will start to ache and feel stiff before becoming very painful. The pain is often worse at night and when you lie on the affected side. Stage 1 usually lasts two to nine months. 

Stage 2

Stage 2 of frozen shoulder is known as the adhesive stage. Your shoulder will become increasingly stiff but the pain does not usually get worse. Your shoulder muscles may start to waste slightly because they are not being used. Stage two lasts four to 12 months. 

Stage 3

Stage 3 is the recovery stage where you will gradually start to regain movement in your shoulder. The pain will also fade, although it may recur from time to time as the stiffness eases.

Following frozen shoulder, you may not regain full movement of your shoulder. However, you will be able to do more tasks than previously. Stage 3 of the condition can last from five months to three or four years.

See the Health A-Z topic about Frozen shoulder - symptoms for more information.

Risk factors for frozen shoulder

Most cases of frozen shoulder occur in people who are over 40 years old. The condition is more common in women than in men.

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not fully understood. However, there are several risk factors that make developing frozen shoulder more likely. These include: 

  • shoulder injury or surgery - keeping your arm and shoulder still for long periods of time, for example while you recover from an arm injury or arm surgery, can lead to frozen shoulder
  • diabetes - if you have diabetes, a condition caused by too much glucose in the blood, you are more likely to develop frozen shoulder; the exact reason for this is unknown 
  • other health conditions - some health conditions can increase your chances of getting frozen shoulder, including heart or lung disease, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and Dupuytren's contracture (a condition that causes one or more fingers to bend into the palm of your hand)

See the Health A-Z topic about Frozen shoulder - causes for more information.

Rotator cuff disorders

The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. Tendons are the tough, rubbery cords that link muscles to bones. The rotator cuff keeps the joint in the correct position, allowing it to move in a controlled way.

Different types of rotator cuff disorder can cause different symptoms, but common features include:

  • pain that is worse during activities that involve your arm being above shoulder level - for example, when brushing your hair
  • pain when you move your arm in an arc away from your body 
  • pain on the front and side of your shoulder
  • pain at night

The different types of rotator cuff disorders and their slightly different causes are explained below.

Tendonitis and bursitis

Tendonitis  is inflammation (swelling) of a tendon. Bursitis is inflammation of a bursa. A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that is usually found over the joints and between tendons and bones.

Rotator cuff tendonitis and bursitis are usually the result of irritation and inflammation caused by a shoulder injury or overuse of the shoulder. For example, these conditions may affect someone whose job involves a lot of overhead lifting, or an athlete who competes in throwing sports, such as the javelin or discus.

If there is any kind of injury to the shoulder joint, the tendons or bursa may become inflamed. This means that there is less space within the joint for the tendons and muscles to move. If the tendons, muscles or surrounding tissue becomes trapped between the bones in the shoulder, any repeated movement will irritate them. 

Tendonitis and bursitis often occur together. When the tendons or bursa are trapped between the bones it is often known as 'impingement syndrome'.

If the tendon is repeatedly scraped against the shoulder bones, it can gradually weaken and will sometimes tear.

Tears

A torn muscle or tendon will cause severe pain and possible weakness in your arm and shoulder. Some people may also feel a popping sensation when they move their shoulder.

Tendon tears are most common in people who are over 40 years old. Tears that affect younger people are usually caused by an accident. In older people, tears are often caused by impingement syndrome.

It is estimated that around half of people who are over 60 years old may have partial or complete rotator cuff tears. This is because your tendons become weaker as you get older.

Rotator cuff syndrome

The term 'rotator cuff syndrome' is used to describe any type of damage to tendons in the rotator cuff, including complete tears.

Shoulder instability

The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint. The top of your upper arm bone (humerus) is the ball, which fits into the socket of your shoulder blade.

Shoulder instability occurs when the ball part of the shoulder joint does not move correctly in the socket. This can range from a slipping or 'catching' feeling in your shoulder, to full dislocation where the ball comes completely out of the socket.

The symptoms of shoulder instability can sometimes be vague. People with shoulder instability often describe symptoms that are similar to having a 'dead arm', such as:

  • tingling
  • weakness
  • numbness
  • shoulder fatigue (tiredness)
  • a clicking, locking or popping sensation

If the shoulder is dislocated (where the ball has come out of the socket), symptoms can include:

  • severe pain 
  • the arm being visibly out of position
  • muscle spasms - the muscles contract painfully 
  • limited movement

Types of shoulder instability

Shoulder instability can be either:

  • traumatic - the shoulder is forced out of place by a sudden impact
  • atraumatic - the shoulder gradually moves out of place over time

Traumatic shoulder instability is often the result of an accident. Atraumatic shoulder instability tends to occur as a result of repetitive arm movements, such as throwing or swimming. Shoulder instability usually occurs in people who are under 35.

Acromioclavicular joint disorders

The acromioclavicular joint is the joint at the top of your shoulder (not the ball-and-socket joint). Possible acromioclavicular joint disorders include:

  • tearing or stretching the ligaments in your acromioclavicular joint - ligaments are the tough bands of connective tissue that link two bones together at a joint
  • partially, or completely, dislocating your acromioclavicular joint

Symptoms of a acromioclavicular joint disorder include:

  • pain in the joint
  • limited movement of the joint 
  • pain on the top of the shoulder

If the acromioclavicular joint is dislocated it may also look visibly out of position.

Risk factors for acromioclavicular joint disorders

Acromioclavicular joint disorders are more common in men and people who are 20 to 50 years old.

People who play contact sports, such as rugby, have an increased risk of developing acromioclavicular joint disorders. They are also more likely to occur in people who have fallen on their shoulder - for example, during a skiing accident.

Bursa
A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that is usually found over the joints and between tendons and bones.
Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Joint
Joints are the connection point between two bones that allow movement.
Ligaments
Ligaments are made of fibrous tissue. They connect bone to bone, providing support while allowing flexibility and movement.
Tendon
A tendon is a fibrous cord that joins bones to muscle. It allows the bone to move when the muscle contracts.

Your GP may be able to diagnose the cause of your shoulder pain by discussing your symptoms with you. As well as asking exactly where the pain is, your GP will also need to know whether:

  • you have had any recent injuries
  • anything makes the pain feel better or worse
  • the pain is worse at night
  • the pain came on gradually or suddenly
  • the pain is affecting your everyday life - for example, at work or when exercising  
  • you have any other symptoms

Physical examination

Your GP will probably carry out a physical examination of your shoulder area. They will:

  • compare your shoulders 
  • check for any redness, swelling or bruising 
  • check whether your joint is dislocated (the joint has come out of its correct position) - if it is, your shoulder will be in an unusual position
  • feel your shoulder bones and joints to see whether this causes any pain

Arm movements

Your GP may also ask you to do some specific arm movements - for example, placing your hands on the back of your neck and pointing your elbows out to the side. The type of movements that cause pain will help your GP to determine the underlying cause.

Investigations 

Further investigations are not usually necessary. However, if you do need any imaging tests to examine your shoulder in more detail, your GP may refer you to your local hospital. You may also need some bloods tests. These are explained below.

X-ray

You may have a shoulder X-ray if the bones of your shoulder joint needs to be examined to rule out other damage. An X-ray uses radiation to detect problems with your bones. See the Heath A-Z topic about X-rays for more information about the procedure.

Ultrasound

A doctor or physiotherapist may perform an ultrasound examination as part of their assessment of your shoulder pain. Many specialists agree that ultrasound provides similar information to an MRI and is often more easily available.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the inside of your body. See the Heath A-Z topic about MRI scans for more information about the procedure.

Blood tests

A sample of your blood may be tested to rule out conditions that can cause shoulder pain or similar symptoms, such as:

 

  • polymyalgia rheumatica- a condition that makes the tissues of the joints inflamed, causing symptoms of muscle pain and stiffness
  • a cancerous tumour (growth)
  • diabetes - a condition caused by too much glucose in the blood, which makes you more likely to develop frozen shoulder
Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.

There are several types of treatment for shoulder pain. The main treatment options include:

  • avoiding activities that make your symptoms worse
  • painkillers
  • anti-inflammatories
  • physiotherapy- where physical methods, such as massage and manipulation, are used to promote healing
  • surgery (in some cases)

The treatment that you have may depend on the cause of your shoulder pain (see Shoulder pain - causes) and your symptoms. For example, as well as pain, you may also have reduced strength or movement in your shoulder. In this case, a combination of different treatments may be used.

For more detailed information about treating frozen shoulder, see the Health A-Z topic about Frozen shoulder - treatment.  

Avoiding activities

Depending on what is causing your shoulder pain, your GP may recommend that you avoid certain activities or movements that may make your symptoms worse.

For example, in the early, painful stage of frozen shoulder, your GP may suggest that you avoid activities that involve lifting your arms above your head. However, you should continue using your shoulder for other activities because keeping it still could make your symptoms worse.

If you have shoulder instability, your GP may recommend that you avoid any movements that are likely to make the instability worse, such as overarm throwing.

If you have sprained your acromioclavicular joint (the joint at the top of your shoulder), your GP may suggest that you avoid moving your arm across your body. You may also be given a sling (a supportive bandage) to wear to support your arm for up to a week after your injury. 

Painkillers

If your pain is mild, taking painkillers such as paracetamol or codeine may be enough to control it. Always follow the dosage instructions on the packet to ensure that the medicine is suitable and that you do not take too much.

If your shoulder pain is more severe, your GP may recommend or prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, diclofenac or naproxen. See the Health A-Z topic about NSAIDs for more information about this type of medication.

As well as easing the pain, NSAIDs can also help to reduce swelling in your shoulder capsule. They are most effective when taken regularly rather than when your symptoms are most painful.

Cautions

Side effects can sometimes occur when using NSAIDs. They may include:

  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • diarrhoea
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Before taking NSAIDs, you should speak to your GP if you have any of the following:

  • asthma - a long-term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing and breathlessness
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • kidney problems 
  • heart problems

Oral corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are medicines that contain steroids, which are a type of hormone. Hormones are powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body, including reducing swelling and pain.

You may be prescribed corticosteroid tablets for frozen shoulder. Some evidence suggests that these may provide short-term pain relief for a few weeks. However, it is not clear whether corticosteroid tablets are any better than the other treatment options, such as corticosteroid injections.

Corticosteroid tablets can also cause a number of side effects. See the Health A-Z topic about Corticosteroids - side effects for more information.

Corticosteroid injections

If your shoulder pain is very severe, such as in certain cases of frozen shoulder, painkillers may not be enough to control the pain. In this case, you may have corticosteroids injected into your shoulder or the space above the joint (the subacromial space).

Corticosteroid injections can help to relieve the pain that is caused by frozen shoulder and increase your range of movement for several weeks at a time, particularly during the first stage of symptoms. However, the injections cannot cure your condition completely, and your symptoms will gradually return.

Research also suggests that corticosteroid injections can provide pain relief for up to eight weeks for tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon). They may also improve your ability to use your shoulder, although they may not be as effective as some other treatments, such as NSAIDs.

One study found that corticosteroid injections may be most effective if they are used within 12 weeks of tendonitis symptoms starting. However, some experts believe that the use of corticosteroid injections should be delayed for as long as possible.

Cautions

After having a corticosteroid injection, you may experience a number of side effects at the site of the injection. Possible side effects can include:

  • temporary pain
  • depigmentation - when your skin becomes lighter 
  • skin atrophy - when your skin becomes thinner as some of the skin cells waste away

Having too many corticosteroid injections can damage your shoulder. Therefore, you may only be able to have this treatment up to three times in the same shoulder in one year.

See the Health A-Z topic about Corticosteroids for more information about this type of medication.

Hyaluronate injections

Hyaluronate is another medicine that can be injected into your shoulder to treat shoulder pain. One review of a number of studies found that hyaluronate was effective at reducing pain.

However, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) does not recommend hyaluronate to treat osteoarthritis (a condition that affects the joints). It found that hyaluronate only had small benefit and that corticosteroid injections were a better treatment choice. Therefore, hyaluronate may not be used. 

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy, often referred to as physio, uses a number of different physical methods to promote healing. If you are referred to a physiotherapist, they should explain to you what treatment they will use and how it will work. Possible treatments include: 

  • massage - where the physiotherapist uses their hands to manipulate your shoulder
  • laser therapy - where the energy from lasers (narrow beams of light) are used to stimulate your nervous system and reduce pain  
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a type of physiotherapy where small electrical pads (electrodes) are applied to the skin over your shoulder. The TENS machines delivers small pulses of electricity through the electrodes, which numb the nerve endings and control your pain.

As well as these treatment methods, your physiotherapist may also recommend shoulder exercises. These will be specific for your needs. For example, if you have shoulder instability, you may be given exercises that will strengthen your shoulder.

Shoulder exercises

If you have shoulder pain, it is important to keep your shoulder joint mobile by doing gentle, regular exercise. Not using your shoulder can cause your muscles to waste away and may make any stiffness worse. Therefore, if possible, you should continue using your shoulder as normal.

If your shoulder is very stiff, exercise may be painful. Your GP or physiotherapist can give you some exercises that you can do without further damaging your shoulder.

You may be given exercises to carry out on your own or you may complete the exercises with supervision from your GP or physiotherapist. You may also have manual therapy, which is when the healthcare professional moves your arm for you. Manual therapy uses special techniques to move the joints and soft tissues in your shoulder.

One review of a number of studies found that long-term physiotherapy was equally as effective as surgery for impingement syndrome (any type of damage to the tendons in the rotator cuff). 

Surgery for frozen shoulder

If other treatments for frozen shoulder have not worked, you may be referred for surgery. There are two possible surgical procedures, which are explained in more detail below.

Manipulation

Manipulation involves having your shoulder moved while you are under general anaesthetic. General anaesthetic is a painkilling medication that makes you unconscious. During the procedure, your shoulder will be gently moved and stretched while you are asleep.

Afterwards, you will usually need to have physiotherapy to help maintain mobility in your shoulder. Manipulation may be used if you are finding the pain and disability from your shoulder difficult to cope with.

Arthroscopic capsular release

An alternative procedure to manipulation is arthroscopic capsular release. This is a type of keyhole, or non-invasive, surgery. The surgeon will carry out the procedure after making an incision (cut) that is less than 1cm (0.4in) long.

During arthroscopic capsular release surgery, your surgeon will use a special probe to open up your contracted shoulder capsule. They will then remove any bands of scar tissue that have formed in your shoulder capsule, which should greatly improve your symptoms.

As with manipulation, you will need to have physiotherapy after arthroscopic capsular release surgery. This will help you regain a full range of movement in your shoulder joint.

Surgery for a rotator cuff tear

Surgery may be used to treat rotator cuff tears if the tear is very large or if other treatment options have not worked after three to six months. It is possible that having surgery earlier will lead to a quicker recovery, although at the moment there is not enough research into whether early surgery is beneficial or not.

During the procedure, a small amount of bone may be shaved off the bones in your shoulder. Damaged tendons and bursae (fluid-filled sacs that are found over joints and between tendons and bones) may also be removed. This creates more space within the joint to allow your rotator cuff to move freely.

The operation can be performed as:

  • open surgery - a large incision is made in your shoulder
  • mini-open surgery - a small incision is made in your shoulder 
  • arthroscopic surgery - a type of keyhole surgery that uses a camera to look inside your shoulder joint

Evidence suggests that people return to work about a month earlier if they have mini-open surgery rather than open surgery.

As with frozen shoulder surgery, you will need to have physiotherapy after your operation to help you regain a full range of movement in your shoulder joint.

Surgery for shoulder instability

If your shoulder dislocates (the ball comes out of the socket) regularly or severely, you may need to have surgery to prevent it happening again and to prevent the surrounding tissues and nerves from becoming damaged. Depending on the type of instability that you have, surgery may involve: 

  • tightening stretched ligaments or reattaching them if they have torn - ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that link two bones together at a joint
  • tightening the shoulder capsule by using heat to shrink it or tightening it with sutures (stitches)

Surgery for shoulder instability can either be done using keyhole or open surgery. After the operation, your shoulder will need to be immobilised (prevented from moving) using a special sling for several weeks. You will also need to have physiotherapy to improve your strength. Full recovery may take a number of months.

Acromioclavicular joint
The joint at the top of the shoulder.
Bursa
A bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that is usually found over the joints and between tendons and bones.
Inflammation
Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
Joint
Joints are the connection point between two bones that allow movement.
Ligaments
Ligaments are made of fibrous tissue. They connect bone to bone, providing support while allowing flexibility and movement.
Rotator cuff
The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint.
Tendon
A tendon is a fibrous cord that joins bones to muscle. It allows the bone to move when the muscle contracts.

Referral

Depending on the cause of your shoulder pain, your GP may refer you for specialist treatment with:

  • an orthopaedic surgeon – a specialist in conditions that affect the bones and muscles
  • a rheumatologist – a specialist in conditions that affect the muscles and joints

You may be referred if:

  • you have frozen shoulder that does not improve after six months
  • you have a rotator cuff disorder that does not improve after three to six months
  • you have an acromioclavicular joint disorder that does not improve after three months
  • you have a rotator cuff tear
  • you have shoulder instability and you are under 30 years old  
  • you may benefit from surgery
  • your shoulder pain is causing severe difficulties – for example, because you are an athlete or because your job involves manual labour

Dislocated shoulder

If your shoulder is dislocated (the ball has come out of the socket), visit the nearest emergency (ED) department immediately.

The healthcare professionals at the hospital will put the ball of your upper arm bone (humerus) back into the joint socket. This procedure is called a reduction.

After a reduction, you will need to rest your arm by wearing a sling (supportive bandage) for a few weeks. You may also be prescribed pain relief medication. 

Your physiotherapist will be able to show you exercises that will help you to regain the strength in your shoulder muscles.

TreatmentProsCons
Avoiding activities that make it worse
For example, avoiding overhead arm movements for a frozen shoulder, or overarm throwing for instability disorders
  • Reduces the pain in the early stage of frozen shoulder
  • Prevents instability symptoms
  • May limit day-to-day activities
Sling
A supportive bandage to hold up the arm on the side with the injured shoulder
  • May be used for sprains to the acromioclavicular joint (top of the shoulder)
  • Will limit day-to-day activities
Simple painkillers
For example, paracetamol and codeine
  • Some available without a prescription
  • Relieve pain
  • Do not reduce swelling
  • Only temporary symptom relief
Anti-inflammatories
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
  • Some available without a prescription
  • Can relieve pain and reduce swelling
  • May not be suitable if you have asthma, high blood pressure, kidney or heart conditions
  • Long-term use can cause indigestion and stomach ulcers
Corticosteroid tablets
Tablets containing steroid hormones that reduce swelling and pain
  • Relieve frozen shoulder pain for a few weeks
  • Are no longer effective after six weeks
  • Can cause side effects, such as weight gain
  • Not clear if these are as effective as other treatments, such as corticosteroid injections
Corticosteroid injection
Medicine containing steroid hormones that is injected into the shoulder joint to reduce swelling and pain
  • Relieves frozen shoulder pain for several weeks
  • Relieves pain caused by tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon) for up to eight weeks
  • Not effective for all types of shoulder pain
  • Can cause pain after the injection, lightening of the skin and thinning of the skin
  • Less effective for tendonitis than NSAIDs
  • Only temporary symptom relief
Physiotherapy and exercise
Physical techniques, such as massage and manual therapy (where the therapist moves the arm) to relieve symptoms  
  • Many different techniques can be tried
  • Can improve stability and strength for shoulder instability
  • Can improve range of movement and flexibility for frozen shoulder
  • May be too painful in the first stage of frozen shoulder
  • May be difficult to follow if exercising without supervision
Surgery for frozen shoulder
Either manipulation, where the shoulder is gently moved under anaesthetic, or arthroscopic capsular release, where the shoulder capsule is opened up and scar tissue is removed
  • An option if other treatments are not effective after six months
  • Can be carried out as keyhole surgery (using a small incision)
  • Surgery carries higher risks than other treatments - for example, infection 
  • Will need time off work to recover
  • Will need physiotherapy after surgery
Surgery for rotator cuff tears
Bone and damaged tissue and tendons are removed from the shoulder to allow the joint to move freely
  • An option if other treatments are not effective after three to six months
  • Can be carried out as keyhole surgery (using a small incision)
  • Surgery carries higher risks than other treatments - for example, infection 
  • Will need time off work to recover
  • Will need physiotherapy after surgery
Surgery for shoulder instability
Stretched or torn ligaments can be repaired or the shoulder capsule can be tightened
  • May prevent the shoulder dislocating (the ball coming out of the socket)
  • Can be carried out as keyhole surgery (using a small incision)
  • Surgery carries higher risks than other treatments - for example, infection 
  • Will need time off work to recover
  • Will need to wear a sling for several weeks
  • Will need physiotherapy after surgery

Content provided by NHS Choices www.nhs.uk and adapted for Ireland by the Health A-Z.