Information for Consumers - Shoulder (Pain or Instability)

This article tells you about shoulder problems (pain, instability and stiffness) and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests you may need to have.


What is shoulder pain or instability?

Shoulder instability means that the shoulder joint is loose and able to slide around in the socket. Sometimes your shoulder can slip out of the socket completely. This means it is dislocated.


Shoulder pain is a very common complaint. If you have shoulder pain, you may have it all of the time or it may only happen when you move your shoulder.


Shoulder pain or instability is usually caused by problems with the soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the shoulder.


Diagnosis

Your doctor will discuss the signs and symptoms of your shoulder pain or instability. Shoulder pain will usually go away within a few days and you would not normally need an X-ray for diagnosis. Sometimes however, he/she may request an X-ray if:

  • something more serious may be causing your shoulder pain
  • your shoulder is unstable
  • your pain does not get better with simple treatment measures

This will help the doctor to decide what is causing your shoulder pain or instability and what type of treatment you need.


Depending on what the X-ray shows, your doctor may request further tests which may include an Ultrasound, MRI or CT scan.


Results

A radiology doctor will look at your scans and write a report for your doctor.


Further information

For more detailed information, please access InsideRadiology at: www.insideradiology.com.au


This is a resource produced especially for consumers by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists: www.ranzcr.edu.au


A guide to gathering information that you may need for making informed decisions is published by the Consumers' Health Council of Australia at: www.chf.org.au


If you would like to look at other relevant articles, please access the following:

Or access the Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website at: www.imagingpathways.health.wa.gov.au/index.php/consumer-info


Or if you have questions or require any further information please contact your doctor or speak to the staff where you are going to have your procedure.


Consumer participation

This information has been reviewed by representatives from the following groups:

  • Aboriginal people
  • People with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse)
  • The Health Consumers' Council

Feedback

All feedback, comments and suggestions regarding consumer information at Diagnostic Imaging Pathways are welcome. Please direct them to the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Disclaimer

This article is intended as general information only. The Department of Health cannot accept any legal liability arising from its use. The information is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible, but please be warned that it is always subject to change.


Copyright

© Copyright 2015, Department of Health Western Australia. All Rights Reserved. This article and its content has been prepared by The Department of Health, Western Australia and is protected by copyright.

Date reviewed: December 2013

Date of next review: November 2015