red flags for shoulder pain

Last edited 04/2022 and last reviewed 05/2022

Red flags for the shoulder pain

Refer to Emergency Department if you suspect fracture, dislocation, or infection.

Acute severe shoulder pain needs proper and competent diagnosis. Any shoulder "red flags" identified during primary care assessment needs urgent secondary care referral (1):

  • suspected infected joint needs same day urgent referral

  • unreduced dislocation needs same day urgent referral

  • suspected malignancy or tumour needs urgent referral following the local 2-week cancer referral pathway

  • an acute cuff tear as a result of a traumatic event needs urgent referral and ideally should be seen in the next available outpatient clinic

  • suspected inflammatory oligo or poly-arthritis or systemic inflammatory disease should be considered as a 'rheumatological red flag' and local rheumatology referral pathways should be followed