Can a walk-in clinic help with my shoulder pain?
December 18, 2010 7:37 AM   Subscribe

I have what I think is probably acute bursitis, and/or shoulder impingement syndrome and the pain has become almost unbearable. Should I go to the walk-in clinic?

This is the second time I've had this particular problem (the first time was 2 years ago), and the symptoms have progressed almost exactly the same way as they did the first time. Last time, having no idea what was wrong and being in a great deal of pain, I decided to go to the walk-in clinic over the weekend. The doctor essentially said he wasn't sure what was wrong, prescribed me some advil, and said they'd call if anything showed up on the x-ray. I think I probably started feeling better about a week after that visit.

I was never given a diagnosis, but as soon as I started feeling a twinge of pain with overhead movement a week ago, I knew exactly what was coming and started looking up my symptoms on the internet. It is almost certainly either bursitis or tendonitis, possibly both. From what I'm reading, the most common treatment for this type of problem is rest, OTC anti-inflammatory meds, and ice. I've read that you can get cortisone shots, but that this is usually a last resort if pain persists after a few weeks of rest.

I don't want to go to the clinic if they're just going to send me away with some advil, but I am in pretty severe pain. It was at its worst last night (probably the most painful experience I've ever had) and I got almost no sleep. On one hand, I'm worried that the pain I'm in means I may have damaged the tendons or rotator cuff (especially since this is the second occurrence without any initial injury or strain). On the other hand, I get the idea that walk-in clinics aren't designed for that detailed a diagnosis. I have insurance, but don't yet have a primary care physician.

Should I call around to doctors' offices on Monday, or go to the clinic today after work? Does anyone have any advice to mitigate the pain in the meantime?
posted by a.steele to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
pain has become almost unbearable

Yes, definitely go to the walk-in clinic. At a minimum, you'll get access to a variety of analgesics and anti-inflammatories that aren't available over the counter but may help you and will be prescribed by a knowledgeable person. If you don't get a diagnosis (and probably even if you do), you should follow up with a physician on Monday.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:50 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you have access to -- er, how's your insurance, I mean -- a physiotherapist? 2nd 'yes, go,' and consider asking for a referral. Ultrasound and TENS treatments are nice for bursitis.
posted by kmennie at 8:15 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, go. I had frozen shoulder a couple of years ago, needed the cortisone shot and what-not, did physical therapy, fixed me right up, it's never come back.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:17 AM on December 18, 2010

Physical therapy can do wonders for bursitis
posted by radioamy at 8:33 AM on December 18, 2010

Thanks so much for the answers so far, everyone.

So, forgive me if this is a stupid question, I can ask the clinic for a referral to a physician or physical therapist since I don't have a doctor?
posted by a.steele at 8:39 AM on December 18, 2010

Depending on your insurance you'll probably need a physician's referral to get PT. I'm in the midst of PT for a rotator cuff injury. Ibuprofin or Naproxin, ice, gentle stretching will help. My doctor told me I could double the dose of Naproxin for a few days without risk of damage but not to do that long term. My sympathies - this is a painful thing to be going through. My physical therapists have said that shoulder problems are both very common and also very slow to improve and that's been my experience. The one reason to go to a clinic over the weekend for this would be pain relief - if a double dose of something over the counter doesn't help I'd definitely get seen. Feel better soon!
posted by leslies at 9:16 AM on December 18, 2010

Try these books

Frozen shoulder workbook

Trigger point workbook
posted by Not Supplied at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just be aware that a lot of walk in clinics won't treat "pain" because of drug seekers. Call ahead of time, explain the problem and ask if you will be seen and what their policy is for someone who comes in with a pain complaint. Otherwise you might be throwing your money away to see a doctor who says "take two aspirin and go to a real clinic on Monday".
posted by fshgrl at 11:57 AM on December 18, 2010

I had something like this, could not afford a doc, but my gym has college educated exercise physiologists who showed me exercises to do-which eventually totally fixed me. After you get your medical treatment I suggest you get advice on similar exercises to keep it at bay for next time!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:58 AM on December 18, 2010

Don't know about bursitis, but I've had impingement syndrome for years, it's awful. I've found that when it flares up I can manage a lot of the pain myself with the techniques outlined in the Frozen Shoulder Workbook. Also I am lucky to have a massage therapist who knows how to do that kind of stuff, it's worth every penny. It's so amazing, you just work on specific sore spots in your armpit or various nearby places and suddenly you can lift your arms again. Once you get the pain under control, there's a simple series of standard exercises you can do to keep it from coming back -- probably the same ones St. Alia mentions.
posted by runtina at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2010

I feel your pain...literally. I'm suffering with the same thing myself. This is the second time I've had this malady (the first time was my left shoulder...this time it's the right). The ONLY treatment the doctors ever give is pain drugs, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxers, which I won't take, and heat/cold alternately. I have actually found relief with natural enzymes and amino acids. Since I pretty much don't sleep more than 1 hour at a time, then wake up with SCREAMING PAIN, I take 2 Ibuprofen PM before going to bed to (hopefully) try to relieve some pain & get some sleep (if you call tossing "sleeping"). Very difficult to find a comfortable position. I've recently purchased a high-tech magnetic/farinfared shoulder wrap which SIGNIFICANTLY reduces or totally eliminates the pain (let me know if you'd like more information), however I can't sleep with it on (I get claustrophobic). I also use peppermint oil...actually works great...smells good too (not like Ben Gay or liniment). I also recently purchased a home-use ultrasound machine. Not too expensive and was rather impressed with the information on the website ( I was pretty desperate because of the pain but I must's going down. Another thing that is actually working quite well is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or "Tapping." Sounds hokey but it really works and I'm pretty desperate for pain relief. Last time I had this I got the most relief from a Massage Therapist. I looked at the book recommended above, "Trigger Point Workbook" and I'm buying it. As soon as the pain is gone I can start working on the adhesions (adhesive capsulitis or "frozen shoulder). Last time I had this I used a homeopathic remedy called Thiosinaminum and exercised for about 1 year before I finally got complete range of motion. GOOD LUCK. I
posted by Debbee at 8:00 PM on March 15, 2011

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