Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I saw two orthopedic surgeons and one physical therapist about a shoulder problem I'm having. All three gave me different explanations for the problem. None of them was the same problem. What's going on here?


Shoulder pain is a common problem especially as we get older. The way the shoulder is examined isn't the same from doctor to doctor or therapist to therapist. It's not uncommon to get a different diagnosis from each specialist who sees a patient.

The shoulder joint itself is very complex. The way it works often causes more than one soft tissue structure to get pinched or pulled. This makes it hard to find out the actual cause of the problem.

Experience and training go a long way in making a correct diagnosis of shoulder pain. Besides musculoskeletal problems, shoulder pain can be caused by cancer, infection, or problems in other parts of the body. For example, a kidney infection or ruptured spleen can cause shoulder pain.

Researchers are trying to find a reliable way to test the shoulder. One model being studied is the selective tissue test (STT) first developed by an orthopedic surgeon (James Cyriax, MD). Many doctors and therapists use this skillfully and successfully to make a shoulder pain diagnosis.

Nigel C. A. Hanchard, MSc, et al. Diagnosis of Shoulder Pain by History and Selective Tissue Tension: Agreement Between Assessors. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. March 2005. Vol. 35. No. 3. Pp. 147-153.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
All content provided by eORTHOPOD® is a registered trademark of Medical Multimedia Group, L.L.C.. Content is the sole property of Medical Multimedia Group, LLC and used herein by permission.

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