Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder hurts

Pain in the shoulder area can talk about different reasons. Maybe you have a muscle injury, a sore joint or bone, and maybe your shoulder hurts because of heart disease. To cure shoulder pain it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that has three main bones: the humerus (long arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (also understood as the shoulder blade). These bones are cushioned by a layer of cartilage. There are two main joints. The acromioclavicular joint is in between the highest part of the scapula and the clavicle. The glenohumeral joint is comprised of the top, ball-shaped part of the humerus bone and the outer edge of the scapula. This joint is also referred to as the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body. It moves the shoulder forward and backwards. It also allows the arm to relocate a circular motion and to move up and far from the body.


Bursae are little, fluid-filled sacs that are located in joints throughout the body, consisting of the shoulder. They function as cushions in between bones and the overlying soft tissues, and assist decrease friction in between the sliding muscles and the bone. Sometimes, excessive usage of the shoulder leads to inflammation and swelling of the bursa between the rotator cuff and part of the shoulder blade called the acromion. The result is a condition understood as subacromial bursitis. Bursitis typically occurs in association with rotator cuff tendinitis. The lots of tissues in the shoulder can become inflamed and painful. Numerous everyday activities, such as combing your hair or getting dressed, might become hard.


A tendon is a cord that connects muscle to bone. The majority of tendinitis is an outcome of inflammation in the tendon. Normally, tendinitis is one of two types:

  • Acute. Excessive ball throwing or other overhead activities during work or sport can cause acute tendinitis.
  • Chronic. Degenerative diseases like arthritis or repetitive wear and tear due to age, can lead to chronic tendinitis. The most commonly affected tendons in the shoulder are the 4 rotator cuff tendons and one of the biceps tendons. The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles and their tendons that cover the head of your arm bone and keep it in the shoulder socket. Your rotator cuff helps supply shoulder motion and stability.

Tendon Tears

Splitting and tearing of tendons may arise from acute injury or degenerative changes in the tendons due to advancing age, long-lasting overuse and wear and tear, or an unexpected injury. These tears might be partial or might completely separate the tendon from its attachment to bone. In a lot of cases of total tears, the tendon is retreated from its attachment to the bone. Rotator cuff and biceps tendon injuries are among the most common of these injuries.

Read more about causes of pains in the shoulder blade.


Shoulder impingement takes place when the top of the shoulder blade (acromion) puts pressure on the underlying soft tissues when the arm is lifted away from the body. As the arm is lifted, the acromion rubs, or “impinges” on, the rotator cuff tendons and bursa. This can cause bursitis and tendinitis, triggering pain and restricting movement.


Shoulder instability occurs when the head of the arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. This can happen as a result of an unexpected injury or from overuse. Shoulder dislocations can be partial, with the ball of the upper arm coming just partially out of the socket. This is called a subluxation. A complete dislocation implies the ball comes all the way out of the socket. When the ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the shoulder ended up being loose or torn, dislocations can take place repeatedly. Repeating dislocations, which may be partial or total, trigger pain and unsteadiness when you raise your arm or move it away from your body. Repeated episodes of subluxations or dislocations lead to an increased danger of developing arthritis in the joint.


Shoulder pain can likewise arise from arthritis. There are lots of kinds of arthritis. The most typical kind of arthritis in the shoulder is osteoarthritis, also called “wear and tear” arthritis. Symptoms such as swelling, pain, and tightness, usually start during midlife. Osteoarthritis develops gradually and the pain it triggers worsens over time. Osteoarthritis, may be associated with sports or work injuries or chronic wear and tear. Other kinds of arthritis can be associated with rotator cuff tears, infection, or an inflammation of the joint lining. Frequently people will prevent shoulder motions in an attempt to decrease arthritis pain. This sometimes leads to a tightening or stiffening of the soft tissue parts of the joint, resulting in a painful constraint of movement.


Fractures are broken bones. Shoulder fractures commonly involve the clavicle (collarbone), humerus (arm bone), and scapula (shoulder blade). Shoulder fractures in older patients are frequently the result of a fall from standing height. In more youthful patients, shoulder fractures are frequently triggered by a high energy injury, such as an automobile mishap or contact sports injury. Fractures typically trigger severe pain, swelling, and bruising about the shoulder.

Other Causes

Other reasons for shoulder pain consist of:

  • torn cartilage
  • bone spurs (bony projections that develop along the edges of bones).
  • pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder.
  • damaged shoulder or arm bone.
  • frozen shoulder.
  • dislocated shoulder.
  • injury due to overuse or repetitive use.
  • spinal cord injury.
  • cardiac arrest.


Your doctor will want to find out the reason for your shoulder pain. They’ll request your medical history and do a physical exam. They’ll feel for inflammation and swelling and will also evaluate your range of movement and joint stability. Imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, can produce comprehensive pictures of your shoulder to assist with the diagnosis.


Treatment will depend upon the cause and intensity of the shoulder pain. Some treatment alternatives include physical or occupational therapy, a sling or shoulder immobilizer, or surgery. Your physician might also prescribe medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.

Corticosteroids are effective anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken by mouth or your medical professional can inject into your shoulder. If you’ve had shoulder surgery, follow after-care instructions carefully. Some small shoulder pain can be treated at home.

Icing the shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes 3 or four times a day for several days can help lower pain. Use an ice bag or wrap ice in a towel since putting ice straight on your skin can cause frostbite and burn the skin.

Resting the shoulder for numerous days before returning to normal activity and preventing any movements that might cause pain can be helpful. Limitation overhead work or activities.

Other home treatments consist of using non-prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help in reducing pain and inflammation and compressing the area with an elastic plaster to decrease swelling.


The initial step is to rest enough to allow your body to heal and renew from daily stress factors. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can also keep your body fueled with the nutrients it uses to function. If you’re experiencing pains and discomforts, try avoiding cigarette smoking. Smoking cigarettes can affect blood flow to the shoulder and body. This can slow healing.

A shoulder injury can take place with repeat or sudden motions. It can take place while playing sports, working out, or falling, and throughout everyday activities such as reaching for something on a rack or gardening. This is more most likely if you raise your arms above your head or lift something heavy without flexing the elbows or using your legs to lift the weight. If you have bad posture or slouch your shoulders, you may be more likely to get shoulder pain.

References / About Reyus Mammadli (article's author)

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