Shoulder pain – Causes, symptoms, and treatments

April 19, 2022

Shoulder pain – Causes, symptoms, and treatments
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The shoulders have a wide and varied range of motion. When something goes wrong with the shoulder, it can cause pain and discomfort. The shoulder is a joint with bones the humerus (long arm bone), the clavicle, and the scapula (shoulder blade). Cartilage cushions these bones.

The acromioclavicular joint is between the top of the scapula and the clavicle. The glenohumeral joint comprises the top, ball-shaped part of the humerus bone and the outer edge of the scapula.

This joint is also known as the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is located where the arm meets the body. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint that allows the arm to move freely. The shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body. The arm can move in a circular motion and move up and away from the body.

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles. Tendons connect muscles to bones. It can be painful or difficult to raise your arm overhead if the tendons or bones around the rotator cuff are damaged or swollen. Shoulder injuries can result from repetitive motion, sports, and manual labour. Additionally, several medical conditions can result in shoulder pain.

These illnesses include diseases of the neck and liver, heart, gall bladder conditions, and more. In addition, your shoulders are more prone to problems as you age, especially after 60. This is due to the gradual deterioration of soft tissue around the shoulder. There are many ways to treat shoulder pain at home, depending on the cause.

Physical therapy, medications, or surgery may be necessary to treat a condition. For example, shoulder pain can be caused by various things, including rotator cuff tears, arthritis, or dislocation. Treatment typically involves rest, ice, and pain medication. Prevention includes keeping the shoulder moving and stretching it regularly.

What are Some Common Causes of Shoulder Pain?

Several factors can contribute to shoulder pain, including genetics, age, and injury. However, the most common cause of rotator cuff tendinitis is overuse. This is a condition where the tendons are swollen. As a result, the rotator cuff becomes pinched between the acromion (part of the shoulder blade that covers the ball of the foot) and the humeral head (the ball of the humerus).

An injury may cause shoulder pain to another part of your body, usually the neck or biceps. This is known as referred pain. Most people experience referred pain when moving their shoulder, but it usually does not worsen.

Other causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Torn cartilage
  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Swollen bursa or tendon
  • Bone spurs (bone protrusions that develop along the edges of bones)
  • Neck or shoulder nerve compression
  • Shoulder or arm bone fracture
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Injuries from overuse or repeated use
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Heart attack

When to see a doctor?

Unless you have an injury or experience sudden and continuous pain, you can usually treat your shoulder independently. However, if you feel that the pain is not getting better after two weeks of self-treatment, you should see your doctor or physical therapist. Likewise, if you experience severe pain in both your shoulders and pain in your thighs, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

How to Manage Symptoms?

Heat or cold therapy

If you have pain in your shoulder after a minor injury, an ice pack can help. It’s usually warmer to the touch on the side where the pain is. For example, you can use a bag of frozen peas to protect your skin from the sun. Don’t leave it in place for more than 20 minutes. Heat packs can help with most other types of shoulder pain, particularly if your muscles feel sore and tense. Chemists and sports stores sell reusable heat pads. You could use a microwaveable wheat bag or a hot-water bottle wrapped in something dry to soothe the pain in your painful area for up to 20 minutes.


Bad posture or working habits, such as slouching at your desk. Try these tips:

When you sit down, try not to lean forward and lean too much on your arms. Try to relax your shoulders and let your arms hang down at your sides rather than pressing them against your sides, especially if some of the pain is coming from your neck. Be constantly changing your position to stay ahead of your opponents. Sit up tall and keep your spine straight.

To improve your posture, use a pillow, cushion, or chair with lumbar support to support your lower back. If your arm hurts, use a cushion or pillow to keep it and make it more comfortable. Use a mirror to help you practise holding your shoulder blades down and back. Focus on your shoulder blades and imagine keeping your chest still and pulling the blades downwards and back towards each other. If you have pain when you lie down, try resting on your good side with a pillow under your neck and a folded pillow to support your head and neck.

Rest and exercise

Taking breaks and exercising are essential even if you don’t feel like you can do much. If you can get a good balance between rest and activity, it may help prevent your shoulder from becoming stiff. There are several exercises you can do to improve your shoulders. Try to avoid movements that hurt. For example, avoid raising your arm above your shoulder or holding it away from your body if it hurts- it may become less painful over time. When you need to raise your arm, you can reduce the strain on your shoulder by:

Keep your elbows bent and to the side of your body

To lower your arms, bend your elbows and bring your hands closer to your body. You may find it more comfortable to exercise after putting ice on your shoulder or taking painkillers. Keep your skin cool and wrapped in a damp towel when using ice to treat burns or irritation.

Treatment for Shoulder Pain

Activity changes

Activity changes may include rest, altering your activities, and physical therapy to help you improve shoulder strength and flexibility. In addition, common-sense decisions, such as avoiding overexertion or excessive activities that you don’t usually participate in, can help prevent shoulder pain.


Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation and pain. If the medication is prescribed for pain relief, it should only be taken as directed. Your doctor may also recommend injections of numbing medicines or steroids to help relieve pain.


Shoulder problems may require surgery to be resolved. For most patients with shoulder pain, simple treatment methods such as altering activities, rest, exercise, and medication will help. However, specific shoulder problems, such as repeated dislocations and some rotator cuff tears, may not benefit from training. In some cases, surgery may be recommended relatively early in the disease process. Surgery may involve arthroscopy to remove scar tissue or repair torn tissues or traditional open procedures for more extensive reconstructions or shoulder replacement.


1. How do you relieve shoulder pain?

Home remedies that help in relieving shoulder pain

  • Anti-inflammatory medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help relieve pain and lower inflammation.
  • Cold compress. Cold compresses can help reduce swelling in the shoulder.
  • Compression.
  • Heat therapy.
  • Muscle relaxants.
  • Pain medication.
  • Rest and activity modification.

2. What is the leading cause of shoulder pain?

The most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when the rotator cuff tendon becomes trapped under the boulder bone. It is a pain in the shoulder area caused by overuse or inflammation of the rotator cuff muscles.

3. When should I be concerned about shoulder pain?

If you have shoulder pain accompanied by difficulty breathing or a sense of tightness in the chest, this may be a sign of a heart attack, and you should go to the hospital right away.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Internal Medicine

Internal Medicine

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