Causes and Treatment of Shoulder Pain

Your shoulder is the most movable joint in the human body. It’s a complex group of muscles and tendons that permit you to bend, extend and rotate your arms close to 360 degrees.

 The shoulder comprises bones and a socket that enables you to rotate your arm. It has a joint where the humerus bone fits into the rounded scapula socket. The shoulder blades or the scapula, upper arm bones, humerus, clavicle, or collarbone all meet at the shoulder on both sides of the human body. The shoulder supports a remarkable range of motion, and if something goes wrong, you may experience a lot of pain while using it.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

According to NIH, “The four most common causes of shoulder pain and disability in primary care are rotator cuff disorders, glenohumeral disorders, acromioclavicular joint disease, and referred neck pain”.

Pain or injury in your shoulder may be a result of any of the following;

  • Injury from a fall or accident
  • Overdoing hand-straining chores like painting or cutting bushes
  • Conditions like Arthritis
  • Referred pain stemming from problems in other parts of the body

To determine if you should seek medical help, first try to decipher whether or not your shoulder has an injury. Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Is your shoulder still able to do the chores you usually do?
  2. Are you able to move your hand freely, or does your shoulder feel stiff?
  3. Does your shoulder feel ready to pop out of its socket at the slightest movement?

Common Shoulder Injuries

Some shoulder ailments are not complicated and are easily treatable at home. Others should have an evaluation using imaging techniques. For example, a torn rotator cuff is easily identifiable in ultrasound images; bones and calcium deposits can be recognized in x-ray images. 

 The following signs will tell you whether or not you need to seek professional help.

  • If your shoulder joint looks out of shape
  • When your whole hand feels numb or weak
  • The pain is very intense
  • If you are not able to use the shoulder for your everyday activities
  • The shoulder suddenly gets swollen

Types of Shoulder Injuries 


A dislocation happens should the shoulder be rotated too far on either side; the top of the arm will snap out of the socket. The extended rotation will cause numbness, swelling, and bruising and terrible pain and weakness.


Here, the acromioclavicular joint, also known as the AC joint, has the muscles holding it together torn either by a bad fall or a hard blow. The collar bone will then get pushed out of its place, separating the two bones.

You will have a very painful bump over your shoulder. 


A fall or impact can crack or break the collar bone or clavicle. The humerus, which is closest to the shoulder, can also break from impact. Then the shoulder will be bruised, become very painful, and sag. 

Frozen shoulder

Sometimes, an abnormal band of muscles or tissues called adhesions builds up and hinders the joint from free movement. This freezing could result from surgery or a long period of inactivity, allowing the adhesions to build up.

Bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis

The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that will help cushion your joint against impact. It will get irritated and swollen if it receives the same impact over and over again. The effect of a fall or injury can also cause bursitis. Bursitis is especially painful if you try to move the shoulder.

Cartilage Tear

The cartilage is the rubbery padding that covers the rim of the shoulder. If you do the same motion many times, you can tear this cartilage. An impact or a fall will hurt the cartilage if the shoulder absorbs a lot of force.

The shoulder will feel like it’s locking or grinding, and you can’t reach over your head.

Rotator cuff tear

The group of muscles and tendons that allow you to move your arms overhead is the rotator cuff. A fall, overuse, and old age have a toll on these muscles. Your shoulder will feel weak and pain at night. You may hear a crackling noise when moving it or try to lift things.


The tendons of the rotator cuff can get pinched in the bones of the shoulder and cause swelling and pain. Keeping your hands over your head is a prime cause of impingement.

Assessment and diagnosis

Your medic or doctor will need to establish the condition of your shoulder before deciding how to treat it. Diagnosis will include;

  • A physical examination to rule out spine or neck injuries.
  • Testing the range of motions your hand can make
  • X-rays if your doctor decides to take a closer look if they suspect bone-related causes like arthritis or spurs.
  • MRI scan when the doctor feels the need for a detailed image of your shoulder.
  • EMG or Electromyography for when the doctors favor observing the electric activity of the nerves
  • Arthroscopy lets in a minute fiber-optic camera to allow the doctor to see high-definition images of your shoulder.

Treatments and Home Remedies 

If you have discomfort on your shoulder, you should find the best method of shoulder pain relief that can work for you. Here are some strategies to use:

Simple Swellings

Some shoulder problems, like a little bit of swelling, can be caused by temporary over-exertion. Try resting it for a few days; you may apply heat or ice three times daily but not more without a pain specialist’s recommendation. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are great for easing lesser shoulder pain and reducing swelling.

If the swelling doesn’t go down, your pain specialist may suggest a corticosteroid or anti-inflammatory injection directly into the joint.

Dislocations, Separations, and Fractures

This kind of shoulder injury requires a doctor’s help to get the shoulder back to the correct position. The doctor will most likely put a sling in place to hold it in place while it heals.

Rotator Cuff Tears, Frozen Shoulder, and Cartilage Tears

For these shoulder injuries, the doctor will recommend medicines and rest. If they don’t improve, then the doctor will recommend surgery.

Sudden shoulder Pain Attacks

Sudden onset of unusual shoulder pain may also be a symptom of an oncoming heart attack, so you want to pay attention to it. Pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain goes all the way to the left jaw or to the arm and neck may result in shortness of breath, sweating, or dizziness. Remember that pain is our body’s way of getting our attention.


However, routine exercise is your best defense. It will help to straighten and strengthen the joint and improve the shoulder’s range of motion. Weak shoulder muscles, damaged ligaments, and tendons may also trigger shoulder pain. If your shoulder muscles become weak, the head of your upper arm bone (humerus bone) may “fall” out of the socket without proper support. This in turn pushes against the surrounding soft tissue and causes pain.

Final Thoughts

Discomfort in your shoulders can hamper you from performing multiple activities when you need to be busy and want to enjoy life. The best approach is to seek medical attention to find out the cause of the pain. Your customized pain treatment plan from a qualified specialist is the best method of treating the condition.