Shoulder Pain: Common Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What is Shoulder Pain?

There are several ways in which shoulder and neck pain can be classified. While some people experience pain in only one area, either the shoulder or neck, some others experience pain in both regions. There are multiple causes of shoulder pain ranging from poor posture and muscle strain to trauma, tumors, and degenerative disorders.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder Pain

There can be several signs and symptoms of shoulder pain which can be caused by a disease or injury that affected the shoulder joint. Injury can impact tendons of the shoulder joint, bursae, or ligaments. Such injuries can damage the following:

  • Bones
  • Meniscus
  • Cartilage
  • Ligament

The shoulder joint is extremely mobile but its stability is easily affected as it is at a greater risk of injury.

Some of the signs and symptoms to look for before consulting a medical professional include:

  • Injury causing joint deformity
  • Inability or difficulty in using the arm to carry objects
  • Pain in the shoulder while resting or during the night
  • Pain in the shoulder that persists beyond several days
  • Finding it difficult to raise an arm

In addition, if there is a bruise or swelling around the arm or joint and if there are symptoms of infection including redness and fever or unusual symptom of any kind, then medical consultation may be required.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain is a common condition that affects many people. There could be a number of causes of shoulder pain including:

  • One or more among frozen shoulder
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Bursitis
  • Shoulder instability
  • Calcific tendonitis
  • Shoulder separation
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • SLAP lesion
  • Labral tear
  • Biceps tendon rupture
  • Arthritis

How is Shoulder Pain Diagnosed? What is the Treatment for Shoulder Pain?

Diagnosis of shoulder pain is possible through x-rays, CT scan, MRI, and electrodiagnostic studies including EMG and NCV (Nerve Conduction Velocity). X-rays reveal fractures, slipped discs, conditions related to arthritis, position of bones, signs of abnormal growth, and instable spinal column. An MRI scan can show details of ligaments, tendons, and nerves. EMG and NCV can help diagnose feelings of numbness, as well as arm and shoulder pain.

Commonly shoulder pain treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Pain relievers are also recommended. One of the common pain relievers being used is Tylenol or acetaminophen. Anti-depressants and muscle relaxers are also helpful depending on the source and location of the pain. Localized application of ice or heat can be used to treat* pain. In case of shoulder arthritis, corticosteroid injection may be given. Exercise will be helpful to recover from shoulder pain and surgical treatment may be needed when spinal cord or nerve roots are the cause of the problem.

Who is at Risk?

Elderly people are at a considerable risk of shoulder pain. In addition, those who have gout are also at a risk of shoulder pain. Gout is caused by uric acid build up in the blood and can be treated. Those who are professional lifters or whose job involves heavy lifting are at an increased risk of shoulder pain. Those who have lupus may also be affected by shoulder pain. Lupus, an autoimmune disorder affects various parts of the body.

Occupational injury is another major cause of shoulder pain. There are certain occupations that involve a lot of physical work that make the workers prone to injuries resulting in the shoulder pain. Sports persons, especially swimmers, volleyball and basketball players, as well as the players who play racquet games are at an increased risk of shoulder pain. Patients who suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and pseudogout may also suffer from shoulder pain.

Expert’s Opinion

According to NIH, the most common cause of shoulder pain can be traced to rotator cuff tendonitis. The tendons of rotator cuff in such cases get trapped in the bony shoulder area. The other causes of this problem include arthritis, bursitis, bone spurs, broken shoulder bone, shoulder dislocation, injury of tendons, and frozen shoulder.

What are the Conditions that Can Minimize Shoulder Pain?

There are certain home remedies that can help minimize shoulder pain. In case the pain does not subside even after several days, medical attention should be sought. When you experience shoulder pain, keep an ice pack on the shoulder area for 10 to 15 minutes. This can be repeated several times during the day for about three days.

It is recommended to wrap the ice in a cloth and not to expose the ice directly to skin surface in order to avoid frost bite. After ice treatment for 2 to 3 days, it is recommended to give your shoulder rest for few days. You can then try to return to your normal activities slowly and gradually. Tylenol is useful to treat* pain and inflammation. It is better to seek the guidance of a physical therapist before taking any medications.

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Author

Expert Author : Kelly Everson (Consumer Health Digest)

Kelly Everson is an independent editor, an award-winning writer and an editorial consultant in the health and fitness industries. Currently, she is a contributing editor at Consumer Health Digest.