Shoulder pain is a common musculoskeletal complaint in the community, which can arise from diverse causes. Regardless of the cause, mild cases can often be effectively treated conservatively, with options including rest, physiotherapy, pain relief and glucocorticoid injections. If conservative strategies fail after a 3-6 month period then surgery might be considered. Generally, the proportion of patients with shoulder pain who require surgery is small. When surgery is considered, a clear diagnosis and structural information from imaging are required. The indications for surgery, and success rate, depend on the specific diagnosis as well as on the individual clinical presentation. Evidence from case series suggest that surgical interventions for shoulder pain are effective when used appropriately. This article outlines the surgical management of the most common painful conditions that affect the shoulder, including impingement, rotator cuff tear, frozen shoulder, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and calcific tendonitis.