OrthoNeuro Blog

27 Mar

4 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

by Boston Gregg

4 common causes of shoulder painThe shoulder is the most movable joint in the body. With the increased range of motion, you also run the risk of inflammation, instability in the shoulder, arthritis, or even fracture. Shoulder pain and injuries are so common, they account for nearly 20% of all visits to the doctor's office.

4 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain


Shoulder instability occurs when the shoulder joint is too loose and able to slide around in the socket too much. Instability in the shoulder is often the after product of a shoulder injury. Sometimes shoulder instability can lead to the shoulder slipping completely out of socket, this is known as shoulder dislocation.

Dislocations can happen when a force overcomes the strength of the rotator cuff. Following dislocation, a physician will need to manually put your shoulder back in the socket.

Instability can be caused by less severe injuries to the shoulder than just dislocation. In fact, shoulder instability can occur without a previous dislocation. Athletes like swimmers, baseball/softball pitchers, and volleyball players are more prone to stretching out the shoulder capsule which in turn will cause shoulder muscles to weaken and shoulder instability.

Tendon Inflammation (Bursitis/Tendinitis):

Tendinitis is the inflammation of the connecting tissue (tendons) between the bone and muscle. Tendinitis in the shoulder commonly occurs in the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendons. Certain sports that require the arm to move over the head repeatedly like baseball and weightlifting, along with certain swimming strokes put athletes at a higher risk for overuse injuries such as tendinitis.

Tendinitis does not always require a doctor's visit, but can be a symptom of a much larger shoulder issue than just inflammation. Your doctor may recommend you get an x-ray or an MRI to rule out more severe injuries.  Surgery is usually avoidable if treatment initiated early in the the inflammatory stage.

Bursitis is another inflammatory response that commonly occurs in the shoulder. The fluid-filled pads, bursae, act as cushions at the joints.  Bursitis may be caused by injury or strain to the shoulder or from repetitive motions such as throwing a ball or lifting overhead. Doctors recommend the RICE method for treatment.  Over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may also be recommended.


According to the National Health Interview Survey, more than 50 million people in the United States report having been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Arthritis occurs in the joints of the body. This inflammation is responsible for the stiffness, limited range of motion, and pain that so many Americans suffer from every year. There is no cure for arthritis, but there are many treatment options available.

Arthritis in the shoulder can occur in the joint where the clavicle meets the tip of the shoulder blade known as the acromioclavicular joint or in the joint where the head of the humerus fits into the scapula, known as the glenohumeral joint. Arthritis is the shoulder can severely limit your ability to raise your arm.  Individuals with significant arthritis of the shoulder may benefit from total shoulder replacement or reverse total shoulder replacement surgery to decrease their pain and improve mobility.

Fracture (Broken bone):

Fractures in the shoulder are typically caused by a fall, collision, or sports injury. The three bones make up the shoulder are the clavicle (collar bone), proximal humerus (head of shoulder), and scapula (shoulder blade). The scapula is fairly well protected by the rib cage and doesn't often break. Most shoulder fractures involve the proximal humerus and/or clavicle. Surgery may be needed to repair and stabilize the fracture.  Following a fracture, your doctor will likely require you to wear a sling to immobilize the bones while they are healing.

Shoulder pain may also be referred from another problem other than a condition in the shoulder.  Many times injuries to the nerves in the neck can cause symtpoms in the shoulder including pain.  Lesions in the upper lung can also cause pain in the shoulder.

Need to see a shoulder specialist?  Schedule an appointment, be seen today! OrthoNeuro has 8 orthopedic surgeons who treat shoulders!  OrthoNeuro+NOW Orthopedic Urgent Care Centers are open evenings and weekends if you prefer to "walk-in" without an appointment.

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