Understanding Your Shoulder Evaluation Process - Dr. Kevin Kruse

Understanding Your Shoulder Evaluation Process

When you visit your shoulder specialist, understanding what to expect can ease any concerns and help you prepare for your consultation. Here’s a detailed guide on the evaluation process that your doctor will conduct to diagnose and understand your shoulder issues.

Welcome and Initial Consultation

Your visit will start with a discussion about your medical history and the specific symptoms you are experiencing. This conversation is crucial as it guides the focus of the physical examination. You’ll be asked about:

  • How and when your pain started.
  • The nature of your pain – whether it’s sharp, dull, or throbbing.
  • Which activities or movements make your pain worse.

These questions help pinpoint potential causes of your discomfort and direct the examination.

shoulder palpation by shoulder specialist

Visual and Physical Inspection

  1. Visual Inspection: Your doctor will look at your shoulder, noting any swelling, bruising, or muscle wasting. This can give clues about the nature of your problem. Both shoulders will be compared for any differences in appearance.
  2. Physical Touch (Palpation): The specialist will gently press on different parts of your shoulder to check for tenderness or irregularities. This includes the acromioclavicular joint at the top of your shoulder, the bicipital groove (just in front of the shoulder), and various parts of the rotator cuff.

Range of Motion and Mobility Tests

You’ll be asked to move your arm in several directions:

  • Flexion & Extension: Raising your arm in front of you and then behind.
  • Abduction & Adduction: Lifting your arm sideways and then bringing it across your chest.
  • Rotational Movements: Turning your arm inward and outward.

These movements help assess the mobility and comfort of your shoulder during various activities.

Muscle Strength Assessment

To understand the strength and integrity of your shoulder muscles, your doctor will perform simple tests. You might be asked to push against resistance with your arm to gauge muscle strength and function, specifically targeting the rotator cuff and the deltoid muscle.

Special Tests for Specific Conditions

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might conduct specialized tests to diagnose conditions like impingement syndrome or rotator cuff tears. These might include:

  • Neer’s Test: Your arm will be raised swiftly to see if it causes any pain.
  • Hawkins-Kennedy Test: Your arm will be moved forward and rotated inward rapidly.
  • Drop Arm Test: You’ll be asked to slowly lower your arm from a raised position to see if you can do so smoothly.

Each test helps in identifying specific types of shoulder issues more accurately.

Conclusion of Your Visit

After completing these tests, your doctor will discuss the findings with you. If necessary, further imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs may be recommended to get a clearer picture of your shoulder’s internal structure. Your doctor will explain why these tests are needed and what they could reveal.

Moving Forward

Based on the examination and any additional tests, your doctor will outline a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. This might include physical therapy, medication, or in some cases, surgery. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss next steps.

We hope this guide helps you understand what to expect during your shoulder evaluation. Remember, this process is designed to make sure that we understand your condition thoroughly, leading to better and more targeted treatment.

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