Question:I've had shoulder pain off and on for the last three years. I finally went to the doctor to find out what is going on and couldn't get a straight answer. After lots of poking and prodding, now I'm going for X-rays and maybe an MRI. Why is it so hard to get a proper diagnosis?
The shoulder is a very complicated joint. In fact, the shoulder complex is really made up of four different joints or moving parts. And with lots of muscle bulk around it, access to the affected area can be difficult, if not impossible. Not only that but pain patterns often overlap. In other words the patient's description of his or her pain can be caused by more than one condition.
Many of the clinical tests doctors do only confirm the problem is in the shoulder. They don't tell the doctor exactly what's wrong. New information is coming out all the time about the shoulder and changing the way doctors conduct their exams.
X-rays are still the first imaging test ordered. There are two different views that help the doctor see inside the joint. An accurate diagnosis is really the key to choosing the best treatment. Be patient and bear with the process. Although it's come a long way, orthopedic medicine still isn't always an exact science.Edward G. McFarland, MD, et al. Shoulder Examination: Established and Evolving Concepts. In Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. January 2006. Vol. 23. No. 1. Pp. 57-64.
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