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Shoulder Care

The shoulder is your body's most mobile joint. This flexibility makes your shoulder prone to injury. 

Look to UC San Diego Health to find the cause of your shoulder problem and an effective treatment plan. We are repeatedly ranked among the nation's best in orthopedic care by U.S. News & World Report.

UC San Diego Health is the Official Health Care Provider of the San Diego Padres. We are also a designated Center of Excellence for orthopedic care by Optum, which means you'll receive expert, safe and cost-effective care.

When to See a Doctor

UC San Diego Health Ranked Nationally in Orthopedics

If you have shoulder pain that lasts more than a week, you should see a doctor. An early diagnosis and the right treatment can prevent you from doing serious or permanent damage to your joint.

Do I Need a Referral for Orthopedic Care?

You can make an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists directly without a referral. If you have an HMO, however, your insurance plan may require referral from your primary care physician.

Shoulder Conditions Treated

UC San Diego Health treats all types of shoulder conditions, including:

Evaluation and Diagnosis

At UC San Diego Health, you receive a complete work up of your shoulder condition. This includes a careful review of your health history, current symptoms, a physical exam of your shoulder, and X-rays. Diagnostic injections or an MRI arthrogram (or both) may also be recommended if there are inconsistencies in your diagnosis, symptoms or response to treatment. Once you have a diagnosis, you and your doctor can discuss your treatment options and goals.

Nonsurgical Care

Your UC San Diego Health care team may be able to treat your shoulder condition without surgery. 

Activity Modification and NSAIDs

For many people, avoiding activities that irritate your shoulder can provide lasting relief. Rest, icing your shoulder and heat therapy can also reduce discomfort and help your body heal. In addition, your doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These help ease pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy and Injections

Targeted stretching and strengthening exercises can help stabilize your shoulder.  A physical medical specialist can also identify and correct biomechanical factors that may be contributing to your shoulder problems. If physical therapy doesn't resolve your condition, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to reduce painful inflammation.

See Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for more information on our comprehensive non-surgical care for orthopedic injuries and conditions.

Shoulder Surgery

If you have not responded to conservative treatment, you may be a candidate for shoulder arthroscopy, shoulder resurfacing or shoulder replacement. Look to us for your shoulder surgery because our shoulder surgeons are team doctors for the San Diego Padres. You receive the same expert care as these professional athletes.


Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive approach that allows your surgeon to see and work inside your shoulder. Because arthroscopy involves smaller incisions, your recovery is often faster and less painful. Arthroscopy can be used to restore normal joint stability and strength for many injuries, including rotator cuff tears, shoulder instabilities, ligament tears and SLAP lesions.

Reconstruction and Replacement

If you have severe joint damage or degeneration, you may be a candidate for a shoulder resurfacing or replacement. UC San Diego Health surgeons offer a range of surgical approaches to restore your shoulder joint and are sought out for their expertise in complex revision surgeries as well.

See Shoulder Reconstruction and Replacement for more information on our surgical expertise in total and partial joint replacement.

More About Shoulder Conditions and Care

For more general information about hip conditions and treatments, visit our Health Library:

Orthopedics Appointments & Referrals

Shoulder Surgeons

Non-Surgical Orthopedic Care

Sports Medicine in Primary Care

Many shoulder conditions can be diagnosed and treated by one of our primary care physicians (PCPs) with expertise in sports medicine. 

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