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Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

The Most Common Misdiagnosis of the Shoulder

By December 16, 2007

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Frozen shoulder causes stiffness and pain.
Image © Medical Multimedia Group
Shoulder pain is common--almost everyone will have a shoulder problem at some time in their life. The most common cause of shoulder pain is shoulder bursitis/tendonitis, also called impingment syndrome. However, this is certainly not the only cause of shoulder pain.

The most commonly misdiagnosed problem is a frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis. Often diagnosed as shoulder bursitis, a frozen shoulder can either develop spontaneously, or as the result of a shoulder injury or shoulder surgery.

Have you had a problem finding the cause of shoulder pain? You can share your stories of trying to find the cause of shoulder pain under the 'comments' section below.

Related: What is shoulder bursitis? | Causes of Shoulder Pain

December 31, 2007 at 10:36 pm
(1) laura says:

I have shoulder pain afteer a waterslide accident 3.5 years ago. I have had 2 shoulder acromioplastys, and developed a rotator tear which waas repaired 6 months ago, I an still in pain, have been tp physical therapy for which seem like forever, stoped 1 month ago and am still at a loss of range of motion, I have seem 4 orthopeadic Doc;s, in the past 2 years, Don’t know where to turn next, another surgery?? Or pain management, I still do my job with a degree of difficulty, I am a cook for a high school and do a great amount of lifting. Vicoden only takes the edge off the pain and I only use it at night to sleep, can’t take pain meds at work, to dangerous. What are my options if any????

January 3, 2008 at 9:35 am
(2) Denis says:

Have you been prescribed Amytriptelyn (British name, may be different in the US) Normally used as anti-depressant but works well on nerve root pain?
Good luck.

January 18, 2010 at 1:52 am
(3) Exercise for Shoulder Pain says:

We all know that shoulder pain is very common. But how are we going to prevent it? Or Is it preventive?

May 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm
(4) m davies says:

I have suffered constant shoulder pain for approximately 17 years, I have been prodded, poked and painfully examined countless times and been missdiagnosed on many occasions until my latest GP decided he would stop treating what other GP’s, specialists and consultants had diagnosed and start again. Within 30 seconds he said in his opinion i have “impingement syndrome” and would like to send me for a ultrasound to confirm his theory, sure enough a week later the ultrasound technician confirmed this!!
Not any of the previous experts had mentioned impingment syndrome, except one so called expert who only 13 months ago said in his examination report stated “no evidence of impingement”, although the ultrasound tech said the ammount of thickening to the bursa indicates that this has been the cause of my pain for a number of years!
If only previous dr’s had the sence to send me for a ultrasound as soon as it was wideliy available I could’ve saved many years of pain and sleepless nights.

March 22, 2013 at 11:54 pm
(5) lee says:

I have had shoulder pain in the front for about 6 months now. Have had cortizone shot for bicep tendonitis. Rested for a while and still hurt with light weight first day back in the gym. Then have MRI done and ortho doc says it looks normal but still wanted to cut me open for exploratory. No real pain moving from anterior to posterior. Mostly when going from posterior to anterior with resistance. Painful when overhead. Arm gives out when I do any lifting with multiple sets. Pain at inside of elbow joint and shoulder when I curl. Grip also feels weak some of the time almost like a numbness without the tingling. Please help was doing good getting back in Marine Corps shape before this happened to slow me down.

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