When it comes to shoulder pain, understanding who to turn to for help can be as complex as the shoulder itself. Dr. Michael Bercik, an esteemed orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder conditions, offers guidance on determining the most appropriate medical specialist for shoulder pain. Proper care is crucial for effective treatment and recovery, whether the pain results from an acute injury, wear and tear over time, or an underlying condition.

Understanding Shoulder Pain

What Type of Doctor Should You See for Shoulder Pain?The shoulder, one of the body’s most mobile joints, is prone to various injuries and conditions. Pain can arise from issues within the joint itself or from the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Common causes of shoulder pain include rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, bursitis, fractures, and dislocations. Identifying the cause of the pain is the first step toward effective treatment.

General Practitioners: Your First Point of Contact

For many, the journey to address shoulder pain begins with a visit to a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor. These medical professionals can conduct an initial assessment and provide basic care or referrals. A GP might recommend rest, prescribe medication, or suggest physical therapy as an initial treatment. If your condition doesn’t improve with these interventions, or if a more serious injury is suspected, the next step is to see a specialist.

Orthopedic Surgeons: Experts in Musculoskeletal Issues

Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system, encompassing bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Dr. Bercik, with his focus on shoulder conditions, represents this group of specialists who diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of shoulder issues. Orthopedic surgeons are not only trained to perform surgeries but also to evaluate and treat many conditions non-surgically. They can provide comprehensive care for shoulder pain, from conservative treatments like physical therapy and injections to surgical interventions when necessary.

Sports Medicine Physicians: Focusing on Athletic Injuries

If your shoulder pain is related to sports or physical activities, consulting a sports medicine physician can be beneficial. These specialists focus on treating and preventing injuries related to sports and exercise. While sports medicine physicians can treat various conditions, they are particularly adept at managing injuries without surgery, emphasizing rehabilitation and conditioning to return patients to their desired activity level.

Rheumatologists: When Inflammation is the Culprit

For shoulder pain stemming from autoimmune or systemic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, a rheumatologist may be the most appropriate specialist. Rheumatologists are experts in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones. They can offer treatments to manage pain and inflammation, often working with other specialists to provide comprehensive care.

Physical Therapists: Rehabilitation Experts

Although not doctors, physical therapists are critical in treating shoulder pain, especially for conditions that benefit from rehabilitation. A referral to a physical therapist may come from a GP, orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine physician, or rheumatologist. Physical therapists develop personalized exercise programs to strengthen the shoulder, improve flexibility, and reduce pain without surgery.

Making the Right Choice

Selecting the right specialist for shoulder pain depends on various factors, including the cause of the pain, the severity of symptoms, and your overall health. Dr. Michael Bercik emphasizes the importance of starting with a GP or family doctor, who can guide you to the most suitable specialist based on your condition. The journey to recover from shoulder pain is a collaborative effort between you and your healthcare provider. By seeking the right doctor, you can ensure that you receive the most appropriate care for your shoulder condition, leading to a quicker and more effective recovery.