Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Written By: Jonathan Gastel, MD Kent Orthopedics/Sports Medicine, Head Team Orthopedic Physician for Bryant University, Rhode Island College and Mt. St. Charles Hockey Academy on January 9, 2024

Shoulder pain may develop from a variety of causes. It can be triggered by a traumatic event or chronic degenerative changes that develop over time. Often, even if the problem develops from wear and tear, the pain itself may develop abruptly for no apparent reason. This pain may be a dull ache or involve sharp severe pain with certain arm positions and lifting maneuvers.

The good news is, that a vast majority of patients who come to my office with shoulder pain will be relieved of their pain with no surgical intervention. This blog will review two (2) of the most common sources of shoulder pain and treatment options.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain and Treatment Options

1. Impingement Syndrome

This occurs when the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder get pinched or compressed during arm movements. The space between the top of the arm bone (humerus) and the acromion (a bone in the shoulder) narrows, leading to irritation and inflammation of the tendons.

  • Pain when lifting the arm, especially overhead, and weakness in the shoulder.

Treatment Options:
  • Rest and avoid activities that worsen the pain.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve the range of motion and blood circulation to the tissues.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be considered to create more space in the shoulder joint.

2. Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, helping to stabilize and move the arm. A tear occurs when one or more of these tendons are damaged from trauma or just due to wear and tear, either partially or completely.

  • Pain, weakness, and difficulty lifting the arm, particularly lifting the arm away from the body.
Treatment Options:
  • Conservative methods include rest, ice, and physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Pain relief through medications or injections.
  • In cases of severe tears or when conservative methods fail, surgery may be recommended to repair the torn tendon.

Seeking Treatment

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve outcomes for both impingement syndrome and rotator cuff tears. Seeking medical advice and following the prescribed treatment plan are crucial for managing these shoulder conditions effectively.

Feel free to reach out to us at the Kent Hospital and Care New England for further help in the treatment and management of these conditions.

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Disclaimer: While I am a doctor, I am not your doctor.  The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.