The 4 Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Causes of shoulder pain Whether you’re throwing a football, unloading the dishwasher or scratching your back, shoulder pain can compromise even the most basic daily activity. Here’s how to identify and treat the biggest instigators of shoulder pain, which include:

  • Arthritis
  • Fracture (broken bone)
  • Instability
  • Tendon inflammation and tears

The shoulder is made up of tendons, muscles and bones. Its main purpose is to position your hand for your everyday tasks and movements. Since the shoulder is such a mobile joint, it’s more prone to instability or impingement in its soft tissues. This can lead to acute (sudden) or chronic pain.

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a frequent cause of shoulder pain. The most common form of arthritis in the shoulder is osteoarthritis, which is known as “wear and tear” arthritis and may crop up as you age.

Many people respond to arthritis pain by reducing their shoulder movements, but this can backfire and cause tightness or stiffness in the soft tissues of the shoulder joint. It can also lead to significant pain when moving the shoulder.

Osteoarthritis is often caused by chronic movements, inflammation of the joint lining from rheumatoid arthritis, work injuries or sports injuries.

Treatments: Rest, physical therapy and at-home range-of-motion exercises can be helpful in relieving pain. Your doctor may also suggest anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce your symptoms. If conservative treatments don’t help, you may need to have joint replacement surgery.

2. Fracture

A fracture, or broken bone, is another common cause of shoulder pain, swelling and bruising. Shoulder fractures often involve the:

  • Collarbone (clavicle)
  • Shoulder blade (scapula)
  • Upper arm bone (humerus)

Fractures are typically caused by a fall in older patients or a sports or vehicle injury in younger patients.

Treatments: Depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to wear a basic sling for three to eight weeks. For worse injuries, you may need surgery.

3. Instability

Shoulder instability means the head of the arm bone (the humeral head) is displaced from the shoulder socket, often as a result of trauma or serious injury. This can cause a “catching” or slipping feeling the shoulder or even a complete dislocation where the ball of the arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket completely.

This can cause the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the shoulder to tear or loosen, which can lead to repeated dislocations. Repeated dislocations lead to pain, unsteadiness and eventually, arthritis.

Treatments: Your doctor will maneuver the arm bone back into the shoulder socket. After that, you will likely wear a sling for a few weeks as the injury heals. If you experience future shoulder dislocations, you may need surgery to correct the problem.

4. Tendon Inflammation and Tears

Shoulders are prone to overuse injuries from repetitive tasks, such as overhead lifting. This often shows up in the form of tendinitis, an inflammation of the tendons, and bursitis, inflammation of the bursa.

The bursa is a fluid-filled sac between tendons and bones that allows them to glide easily. If the bursa is inflamed, the tendons may scrape against the shoulder bones resulting in weakness or tearing. This is called impingement.

The four rotator cuff tendons are the most susceptible to tendinitis. When the tendons are inflamed, there’s less space for the tendons and muscles to move within the joint.

Treatments: Rest your shoulder and avoid positions or activities (like overhead lifting) that cause pain. If this doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection to decrease inflammation and pain, as well as physical therapy.

Get Treatment for Shoulder Pain

If you’re experiencing frequent, disruptive pain throughout your day — and caring for your shoulder injury at home hasn’t helped — it may be time to get help from a medical professional.

The orthopedic surgeons at Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center specialize in treating all types of shoulder conditions and injuries. Don’t live with the pain another day.

Call us today at 404-778-3350 to schedule an appointment.

Tags: , ,