Shoulder Pain Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

shoulder pain causes

Shoulder pain causes

The shoulder joint allows a wide range of motion in the arm. It is the most movable joint in your body. Muscles and tendons together known as rotator cuff allow the shoulder to move in a wide range of motions.

Rotator Cuff Muscles

Rotator cuffs are made up of four muscles and tendons that help in keeping the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. These muscles help in a wide range of motion and stability.

Bones of the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder joint has three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). In the shoulder blade, a rounded socket takes the head of the upper arm bone. The socket is known as the glenoid socket. Tendons and muscles (rotator cuff) keep arm bone centered in the glenoid socket.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be temporary or may be present all the time. You can feel pain when you lift your arm above the head or move it behind or forward. You feel shoulder pain when you move your shoulder. Chronic shoulder pain requires accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Shoulder Pain Causes


Inflammation of the tendon (a cord that attaches muscle to bone) is known as tendinitis. It is of two types: Acute – excessive involvement in activities, sports, or works that put pressure and strain on the shoulder joint can cause acute tendinitis; Chronic tendinitis: progressive damage to the tendons due to repetitive wear and tear or arthritis and other degenerative conditions of the shoulder joint can lead to chronic tendinitis.


The shoulder joint has small fluid-filled sacs called Bursae. They act like shock absorbers or cushions between the bones and cartilages and soft tissues. Bursae help in reducing friction between the shoulder bone and gliding muscles.

They are present in joints throughout the body. Sometimes, overuse and excessive strain on the shoulder joint may lead to swelling and inflammation of the bursa. This may cause shoulder pain.

Both rotator cuff tendinitis and bursitis often occur together. This is the case when several tissues get involved and become painful and inflamed. When this happens, even simple day-to-day activities such as getting dressed or combing hair become difficult.


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in the shoulder joint that causes inflammation and pain. It is the wear and tear type of arthritis common during middle-age years. The symptoms such as joint stiffness, pain, and swelling begin during middle age and progress gradually. The symptoms worsen over a period of time.

Other types of arthritis, in general, can be due to inflammation, an infection, rotator cuff tear, work-related injury or chronic wear and tear. People with arthritis tend to avoid shoulder movement. This will lead to stiffness and tightening of the joint with a painful limitation of motion.

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder dislocations cause instability because the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket is forced out of the socket. When the ball comes out partially out of the socket – it is known as subluxation. In a complete dislocation, the ball comes out of the socket completely. Shoulder instability results from overuse or sudden injury.

The risk of repeated dislocations increases if muscles, tendons, and ligaments are torn or turn loose. When you raise your arm above, you will feel pain and unsteadiness in your shoulder joint.

Tendon Tears

Tendons tears partially or completely due to a sudden injury, wear and tear, excessive usage, and advancing age. Long-term degenerative changes in the tendons can also result due to aging and overuse.


Fractures commonly occur in the shoulder blade (scapula), clavicle (collarbone), and upper arm bone (humerus). In young people, fractures are often caused by sports, high-impact sports or activities, and severe blows. In elderly people, shoulder fractures result from falls. Fractures often cause severe pain, swelling, and bruising on the shoulder.


Your Orthopedic doctor evaluates the cause of shoulder pain by taking into account your thorough medical history. The information about the nature of pain, the activities you do and a detailed medical history can be a valuable tool in determining the source of your pain. The doctor will look for muscle weakness, instability, deformity, swelling, or physical abnormality. Your Orthopedic doctor will also check for the range of motions and strength of your joint. Next, an X-ray, MRI, or Ct may be ordered.


The treatment may involve lifestyle changes – mostly changes in activities and physiotherapy sessions with special flexibility and strengthening exercises. Doctors will also instruct patients to avoid overexertion or overindulgence in activities that cause shoulder pain. In most cases, restraining oneself from overuse can help prevent shoulder injury and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe inflammation and pain-relieving medications and steroid injections. However, if rest, avoiding activities that cause pain, altering activities, exercise and medications do not offer relief, then surgery may be recommended.

Meet Dr. Praharsha Mulpur to know which treatment works best for your shoulder pain. Never delay in approaching an Orthopedic doctor if you experience shoulder pain. Shoulder pain causes can be many, but nailing down the exact cause can be a bit tricky for you. Therefore, leave it to an expert.