shoulder pain | Causes, treatments and frequently asked questions (2023)

Shoulder pain is discomfort or pain in the shoulder joint or in the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as injury, inflammation, or degeneration of the joint. Symptoms can include stiffness, weakness, and limited range of motion. Treatment options may include physical therapy, medication, and in some cases surgery.

In this article, we are going to discuss the causes of shoulder pain likepain in the shoulderWhat is treated and why it is important to treat shoulder pain.

Causes of shoulder pain

There are many potential causes of shoulder pain, which mostly depend on your lifestyle, such as whether you are an athlete or a coach. You may experience shoulder pain depending on your activity levels and the impact your movements may have. In either case, it is important to consult a medical professional to determine the cause of the pain so that the most appropriate treatment plan can be determined.


Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and muscles, becomes inflamed. Bursitis can occur in any joint in the body, but it is most common in the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Shoulder bursitis is also known as subacromial bursitis.

Symptoms of bursitis can include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joint, as well as reduced range of motion. The pain may worsen when the joint is used or when pressure is applied to the area.

Bursitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including overuse, injury, infection, or underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also occur as a complication of other conditions such as tendonitis or gout.

(Video) Diagnosis & Therapy of Acute Shoulder Pain – Family Medicine | Lecturio


Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon, which is the fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Tendonitis can occur in any tendon in the body, but it is most common in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and Achilles tendon.

Tendonitis is often caused by repetitive motion or overuse of the affected tendon. It can also be caused by a sudden injury or an underlying medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of tendinitis can include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area, as well as reduced range of motion. The pain may get worse when the muscle is used or when pressure is applied to the area.

shoulder pain | Causes, treatments and frequently asked questions (1)

tendon tears

A tendon rupture in the shoulder is a condition in which the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone is damaged or torn. This type of tear is most common in the rotator cuff tendons, which are a group of four muscles and tendons that attach to the shoulder blade and help lift and rotate the arm. A rotator cuff tear can occur due to injury, overuse, or degeneration of the tendons over time.

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear can include pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the affected arm. The pain may worsen when lifting or reaching for the head and may be accompanied by a popping or popping sensation.

(Video) Four Common Types of Shoulder Pain and Options for Treatment


Shoulder instability can occur when the upper arm bone (humerus) is not properly aligned with the shoulder blade (scapula). This can lead to pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Shoulder instability can be caused by a number of things, including dislocation or injury, repetitive motion and overuse (especially overhead motion), and muscle weakness.


Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the joints, which can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. There are several types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that occurs when the cartilage that protects the bones within the joint wears away over time. This can cause the bones to rub against each other, causing pain and stiffness in the shoulder.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints. This can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder, as well as destruction of the cartilage and bone within the joint.

Post-traumatic arthritis occurs after a shoulder injury, such as a fracture or dislocation; it can lead to joint degeneration and chronic pain.

(Video) Self-Diagnose Shoulder Pain with these Tests

All types of arthritis are underpinned by similar symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.


A fracture refers to a break in a bone, which can cause a significant amount of pain and disability. Many types of fractures can affect the shoulder, such as clavicle fractures, humerus fractures, and scapula or shoulder blade fractures.

Symptoms of a shoulder fracture can include pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected area, as well as difficulty moving the shoulder. Treatment for a shoulder fracture may include rest, immobilization in a sling or cast, and physical therapy to help regain strength and range of motion. With severe fractures, surgery may be needed to repair the fracture or fix the bone in place with screws, plates, or rods.

shoulder pain treatment

Shoulder pain treatment is necessary to relieve discomfort and restore function to the shoulder joint. If left untreated, shoulder pain can lead to chronic pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. Additionally, shoulder pain may be indicative of an underlying injury or condition that may require medical attention to prevent further damage or deterioration.

activity changes

Activity changes are a common treatment for shoulder pain and can include a variety of modifications to your daily routine. Some examples of activity changes that may be recommended to relieve shoulder pain include:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that exacerbate pain, such as tilting your head or lifting weights, and allowing your shoulder to rest can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Physiotherapy: Exercises and stretches designed to improve shoulder flexibility, strength, and range of motion can help relieve pain and prevent future injury.
  • improve posture: This can help reduce tension in the shoulder and relieve pain.


There is a wide variety of medications that can be used to treat shoulder pain in the short term.

(Video) Shoulder Pain - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include ibuprofen and naproxen, which can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Paracetamol can also be used to relieve pain, but it does not have anti-inflammatory properties.

Corticosteroids are another medication that can be used to treat inflammation and pain and are often given as injections or pills. Muscle relaxants can also be used to help relax tight or spasmodic shoulder muscles, thereby reducing pain.

The drug should be taken under the supervision of a medical professional and should not be viewed as a long-term solution.


In severe cases of injury such as severe fractures or when other treatment methods have failed, surgery may be an option to treat shoulder pain.

There are various surgical procedures for the shoulders and these may include arthroscopy, rotator cuff repair, total shoulder replacement, joint reconstruction, and shoulder arthroplasty.

Surgery is generally considered a treatment of last resort, especially since healing time can be significantly longer and additional care and therapy is often required after surgery. Therefore, it is always important to discuss the possible benefits, risks, and recovery expectations with your surgeon before making the decision to undergo surgery. Your surgeon will be able to provide personalized recommendations based on your specific condition and overall health.

(Video) Understanding Shoulder Pain - SYMPTOMS, CAUSES, AND TREATMENTS

How OPA Ortho can help with shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is a common complaint experienced by many people, but it can have a significant impact on your daily life and mobility. It is important to have your shoulder pain checked out as soon as possible so the cause can be determined and you can begin your healing journey.

Ortho takeover bidcan help you with any questions you may have about shoulder pain.

We have a variety of resources to help you understand the causes and treatment options for your shoulder pain, as well as methods and treatments to get you back on the move with less pain.Contact Ustoday to see how we can help you.


What is the most common reason for shoulder pain? ›

The most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when rotator cuff tendons become trapped under the bony area in the shoulder. The tendons become inflamed or damaged. This condition is called rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis.

What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear? ›

The pain associated with a rotator cuff injury may:
  • Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder.
  • Disturb sleep.
  • Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back.
  • Be accompanied by arm weakness.
May 18, 2022

What are three treatment options for shoulder pain? ›

  • Resting your arm and avoiding painful activities.
  • Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Applying heat or ice to the shoulder.
  • Steroid injections.
  • Physical therapy, including exercises designed to restore.

What are red flags for shoulder pain? ›

Look for the following red flags that indicate the need for urgent investigations and/or referral to secondary care: acute presentation with a history of trauma (especially if pain restricts all passive and active movements); systemic symptoms such as fever, night sweats, weight loss, or new respiratory symptoms; ...

Can shoulder pain be a symptom of something else? ›

In addition to spine or disc issues, you can also experience shoulder pain from other health problems, ranging from pneumonia, pancreatitis, and gallstones to inflammation around the heart and heart attack.

What does shoulder bursitis feel like? ›

You may experience a dull ache, sharp pain or mild tenderness. Other signs of shoulder bursitis include: Shoulder stiffness or a feeling of swelling. Painful range of motion.

What does a torn shoulder ligament feel like? ›

There may be a snapping sensation and immediate weakness in your upper arm. Tears that develop slowly due to overuse may also cause pain and arm weakness. You may have pain in the shoulder when you lift your arm, or pain that moves down your arm.

What are 3 common shoulder injuries? ›

Common problems include:
  • Sprains and strains.
  • Dislocations.
  • Separations.
  • Tendinitis.
  • Bursitis.
  • Torn rotator cuffs.
  • Frozen shoulder.
  • Fractures (broken bones)
Oct 19, 2016

What is the best test for rotator cuff tear? ›

The drop arm test is used to assess for full thickness rotator cuff tears, particularly of the supraspinatus. This can be useful when diagnosing sub-acromial pain syndrome (shoulder impingment) or to differentiate between shoulder and rotator cuff pathologies.

Will a cortisone shot help a torn rotator cuff? ›

Injections around the rotator cuff are helpful in providing relief, restoring function, and facilitating rehabilitation. However, partial and complete rotator cuff tears will not heal with cortisone injections and can make them worse. In fact, injections may compromise healing after surgery.

What exercises aggravate rotator cuff? ›

Exercises to avoid with an injured rotator cuff
  • Deadlifts. “These heavy weights are basically pulling your arm out of your socket,” says Kinsey. ...
  • Shrugs. Another example of weight pulling down on your shoulder.
  • Squatting. Resting the bar across your shoulders and your arm positioning stresses the rotator cuff.
Jan 10, 2022

How can I fix my shoulder without surgery? ›

Kelly explains four ways to fix shoulder pain without surgery:
  1. Do physical therapy. Certain types of shoulder pain are actually better suited to physical therapy than surgery. ...
  2. Maintain your weight. What does weight management have to do with shoulder pain? ...
  3. Take medication. ...
  4. Control inflammation. ...
  5. Penn Sports Medicine.
Feb 25, 2016

Which therapy is best for shoulder pain? ›

Of all the joints in your body, the shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion. Because of its incredible mobility, it is more likely to be injured or sustain painful problems.

What drug is best for shoulder pain? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can relieve shoulder pain by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two NSAIDs doctors commonly recommend. If over-the-counter NSAIDs don't relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe a stronger dose for weeks or months.

What diseases are associated with shoulder pain? ›

Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints) Polymyalgia rheumatica. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease) Rotator cuff injury.

Can shoulder pain indicate heart problems? ›

There are a few different heart disease-related sources of shoulder pain. The condition most commonly associated is probably a heart attack, but other potential cardiac conditions can also trigger this pain.

What does shoulder MRI show? ›

MRI gives clear views of rotator cuff tears, injuries to the biceps tendon and damage to the glenoid labrum, the soft fibrous tissue rim that helps stabilize the joint. MR imaging of the shoulder is typically performed to diagnose or evaluate: degenerative joint disorders such as arthritis and labral tears.

What organ refers pain to the left shoulder? ›

Kehr's sign in the left shoulder is considered a classic symptom of a ruptured spleen.

What does shoulder pain mean mentally? ›

Generally speaking, anger and pride can create tension that results in shoulder neck pain. Additionally, an increased mental workload can cause extra shoulder tension. You may literally feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's a saying for a reason!

What are 3 symptoms of bursitis? ›

Sudden inability to move a joint. Excessive swelling, redness, bruising or a rash in the affected area. Sharp or shooting pain, especially when you exercise or exert yourself. A fever.

Does shoulder bursitis show up on xray? ›

X-ray images can't positively establish the diagnosis of bursitis, but they can help to exclude other causes of your discomfort. Ultrasound or MRI might be used if your bursitis can't easily be diagnosed by a physical exam alone.

What part of shoulder hurts with bursitis? ›

Bursitis of the shoulder (impingement syndrome) occurs when there is swelling and redness between the top of the arm bone and the tip of the shoulder. Between these bones lie the tendons of the rotator cuff and a fluid-filled sac called the bursa, which protects the tendons.

How do you check yourself for a torn rotator cuff? ›

In this test you begin by placing the injured arm behind your back, with the back of your hand resting on you lower back. Now try to raise your arm off of your back.. If you feel pain or weakness when trying to lift your hand off of your back, that is a sign that there could possibly be rotator cuff injury involved.

How do I know if I tore a tendon in my shoulder? ›

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tendon tear
  1. Pain in your shoulder, which may be worse with overhead movements or at night from lying on the affected side.
  2. Weakness in your arm and shoulder.
  3. Trouble lifting your arm up or rotating your arm.
  4. Clicking or crackling sounds when moving or using your arm and shoulder.

Can xray show torn ligament in shoulder? ›

Although a rotator cuff tear won't show up on an X-ray, this test can visualize bone spurs or other potential causes for your pain — such as arthritis. Ultrasound.

What is the most common disorder of the shoulder? ›

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis. Also called wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the joint.

What is the most painful shoulder injury? ›

One of the more painful scenarios that can develop in the human body is frozen shoulder. Officially referred to as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder significantly decreases the shoulder's pain-free range of motion as the joint stiffens up.

What is the bear hug test? ›

The testing movement involves the patient performing internal rotation (IR), by lifting the hand off the back while the examiner places pressure on the hand[2]. The test is considered to be positive if the patient cannot resist, lift the hand off the back or if she/he compensates by extending the elbow and shoulder[2].

Can you live with a torn rotator cuff without surgery? ›

Rotator cuff tears do not heal on their own without surgery, but many patients can improve functionally and decrease pain with nonsurgical treatment by strengthening their shoulder muscles. Just because there is a tear, does not necessarily mean a surgery is needed.

Does a torn rotator cuff hurt all the time? ›

Rotator cuff tendon tears often cause pain at night. The pain may even wake you. During the day, the pain is more tolerable, and usually only hurts with certain movements, such as overhead or reaching toward the back. Over time, the symptoms become much worse and are not relieved by medicines, rest, or exercise.

What is the downside of cortisone shots? ›

There's concern that repeated cortisone shots might damage the cartilage within a joint. So doctors typically limit the number of cortisone shots into a joint. In general, you shouldn't get cortisone injections more often than every six weeks and usually not more than three or four times a year.

What cream is good for rotator cuff pain? ›

Topical gel or cream is another option for nighttime relief for rotator cuff pain. Apply a cream or gel to the shoulder about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime for best results. Creams such as Aspercreme, Bio freeze, and Voltaren are over-the-counter topicals that may help with nighttime rotator cuff pain.

What is the next step if a cortisone shot doesn't work? ›

When one (or several) injections fail to fix your problem, often the next recommended step is surgery. The majority of the people we work with are seeking pain relief for their back, knee, neck or shoulder WITHOUT the need for surgery and other procedures.

What causes rotator cuff to flare up? ›

What causes rotator cuff tendinitis? This condition is often caused by or associated with repetitive overhead activities such as throwing, raking, washing cars or windows and many other types of highly repetitive motions. It may also occur as a result of an injury.

What exercises should I avoid with rotator cuff inflammation? ›

People with shoulder injuries should initially refrain from exercises that encourage any movement or movement overhead. Forget about activities like throwing a ball or specific weight training at the gym like overhead presses and pull-ups.

What not to do with rotator cuff injury? ›

During the recovery phase of a rotator cuff injury, avoiding overhead lifts with any weight is highly recommended. Movements that require the shoulders to be put under intense pressure or performing complex motions will put more strain on the muscles and potentially cause more significant injury.

What happens when your shoulder pain doesn't go away? ›

You should see your GP if: the pain doesn't improve after two weeks. it's very difficult to move your arm or shoulder. the pain started after an injury or accident, like a fall.

Does shoulder pain always mean surgery? ›

Shoulders can be injured in many ways, including trauma, torn tendon, or simply overuse. Fortunately, an injured shoulder doesn't always require surgery.

How do doctors fix shoulder pain? ›

Shoulder pain can usually be corrected with a simple non-operative treatment, such as anti inflammatory medications and physical therapy; cortisone injections can also help reduce pain and discomfort. If nonoperative management fails to improve pain and discomfort, surgery may be necessary.

What type of shoulder pain requires surgery? ›

Tendon Disorders

A damaged tendon can result in high levels of pain or limited motion in the arm. In the case of the shoulder, both bicipital tendinitis and rotator cuff tendonitis may require surgery to correct the issue.

What is the main cause of shoulder pain? ›

The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or trapped in your shoulder. This is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or irritation of these tendons and inflammation of the bursa, small slippery fluid filled sacs that the tendons glide over.

Is muscle relaxer good for shoulder pain? ›

Muscle relaxers work by depressing your central nervous system. This leads to muscular relaxation, and it stops painful muscle spasms. Muscle relaxers are a great choice if your shoulder pain is so severe it prevents you from sleeping or disrupts your daily tasks.

What helps shoulder pain while sleeping? ›

How Can You Prevent Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on Your Side?
  • Sleeping on your back. This is the best way to offload your shoulders. ...
  • Sleeping with specialized side pillows. ...
  • Sleeping on your stomach. ...
  • Sleep on the non-painful shoulder. ...
  • Avoid sleeping with your arm under a pillow or with your elbow overhead.
Mar 31, 2022

Is heat good for shoulder pain? ›

Applying heat to your shoulder increases the blood flow to the area, meaning it's good for symptoms that might be brought on by poor circulation. This means applying heat to your shoulder is good for treating frozen shoulder or stiffness as well as muscle spasms and can really help with arthritis pain.

Can shoulder pain be related to heart problems? ›

There are a few different heart disease-related sources of shoulder pain. The condition most commonly associated is probably a heart attack, but other potential cardiac conditions can also trigger this pain.

Does shoulder pain mean anything? ›

Call Emergency Services if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain starts in your chest, jaw, or neck. If you fall on your shoulder and feel sudden intense pain, you should see a doctor because you may have torn rotator cuff or dislocated your shoulder.

When should I go to the doctor for shoulder pain? ›

Make an appointment with your doctor if your shoulder pain is accompanied by: Swelling. Redness. Tenderness and warmth around the joint.

How do I know if my arm and shoulder pain is heart related? ›

Seek emergency treatment if you have:
  1. Arm, shoulder or back pain that comes on suddenly, is unusually severe, or is accompanied by pressure, fullness or squeezing in your chest (this may signal a heart attack)
  2. An obvious deformity or protruding bone in your arm or wrist, especially if you have bleeding or other injuries.

Is shoulder pain a symptom of cholesterol? ›

A study published online Dec. 20, 2016, by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found a connection between heart disease risk factors (such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes) and shoulder problems (such as joint pain or rotator cuff tendinitis or tear).

What medication is best for shoulder pain? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can relieve shoulder pain by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two NSAIDs doctors commonly recommend. If over-the-counter NSAIDs don't relieve your pain, your doctor may prescribe a stronger dose for weeks or months.

What does a pinched nerve in your shoulder feel like? ›

A pinched nerve in the shoulder will typically cause pain, numbness, or discomfort in the shoulder region. A person may also have other symptoms, which include: changes in feeling on the same side as the shoulder that hurts. muscle weakness in the arm, hand, or shoulder.

Does shoulder arthritis show up on xray? ›

X-rays of an arthritic shoulder will show a narrowing of the joint space, changes in the bone, and the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes). This X-ray shows severe osteoarthritis of the glenohumeral joint.

Why can't you use Voltaren on your shoulder? ›

It's a potent medication that is very effective for many people and is often used for arthritis pain. For superficial joints – like hands, wrists and even knees – it can be very effective. However, the joints of the cervical spine in the neck, and most of the shoulder joint, are deeper than the Voltaren can penetrate.

What triggers shoulder arthritis? ›

In the case of shoulder arthritis, the blood flow cannot reach the head of the humerus bone (the “ball” of the “ball-and-socket” shoulder joint). The condition may result from shoulder trauma, alcohol abuse, or the use of high-dose steroids. It is progressive and will worsen with the passing of time.

How long is too long for shoulder pain? ›

You can usually do things to help ease shoulder pain yourself. You should see your GP if your shoulder pain doesn't begin to feel better after two weeks.

Can a doctor do anything for shoulder pain? ›

Shoulder pain can usually be corrected with a simple non-operative treatment, such as anti inflammatory medications and physical therapy; cortisone injections can also help reduce pain and discomfort. If nonoperative management fails to improve pain and discomfort, surgery may be necessary.


1. How to Rid Pain Coming From the Top Of Your Shoulder – Dr.Berg on Simple Stretch For Shoulder Pain
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
2. What is Causing Your Shoulder Pain? Tests You Can Do Yourself.
(Bob & Brad)
3. Shoulder Muscle Pain – Causes and Treatments for Relief by Dr. Berg
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
4. Understanding Shoulder Pain and How To Fix It
(Precision Wellbeing)
5. Shoulder Pain - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim
(nabil ebraheim)
6. Shoulder Impingement Causes and Treatment
(The Center Orthopedic & Neurosurgical Care)


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