Shoulder Pain Common Causes, Prevention And Treatment


The range of motion in the shoulder is extensive and flexible. Your ability to move freely is hampered by shoulder problems, which can also be quite painful and uncomfortable.

The humerus (long arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula are the three primary bones that make up the ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder (also known as the shoulder blade).

A cartilage layer covers these bones to provide cushioning. The major joints are two. The highest point on the scapula and the clavicle form the acromioclavicular joint.

The top, ball-shaped portion of the humerus bone and the scapular outer border create the glenohumeral joint. The shoulder joint is another name for this joint.

 The shoulder is moved both forward and backwards. Moreover, it enables the arm to rotate and rise and fall away from the body.

The rotator cuff provides the range of motion for the shoulders.

Four tendons make up the rotator cuff. The tissues that connect muscles to bones are called tendons. If the tendons or bones around the rotator cuff are injured or inflamed, it could hurt or be challenging to lift your arm over your head.

Sports, hard labour, repeated movement, and even playing sports can all lead to shoulder injuries. There are certain illnesses that might cause shoulder discomfort. These include conditions affecting the neck's cervical spine.

As you age, especially beyond the age of 60, you are more prone to experience shoulder issues. This is due to the soft tissues surrounding the shoulder deteriorating over time.

Shoulder discomfort is frequently treatable at home. Surgery, medicine, or physical therapy may also be required.

You should know the origins, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of shoulder discomfort.


The majority of shoulder injuries typically affect a limited area of the shoulder and are expected to heal fast.

Yet, there are situations when your shoulder issue might be a symptom of a more serious, chronic ailment like polymyalgia rheumatica or osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis patients frequently experience discomfort and oedema in their shoulders.

Unless you have already hurt your shoulders, osteoarthritis is less likely to harm them than other joints.

There are several more potential reasons for shoulder discomfort, including:

  • Damage to the muscles and tendons around the shoulder tension in the muscles between the neck and shoulder is typically caused by poor posture inflammation
  • When the muscles and tendons around your shoulder are damaged, your shoulder may become hot, red, inflamed, and painful as a normal reaction to an infection or injury.
  •  Using a computer or at work can cause inflammation in the bursa, a fluid-filled cushion that typically helps the muscles and tendons move easily over the shoulder bones
  • Damage to the bones and cartilage, which can be brought on by arthritis, and pain in your upper back or neck.
  • It is also conceivable that the shoulder discomfort you are experiencing is a result of an issue with another body area, such as your neck.
  • Your upper arm or shoulder blade may hurt if you have neck issues. When this occurs, the discomfort is referred to as radiating pain. If you have discomfort in your shoulder and tingling in your hand or arm, it is likely that it stems from a neck issue.

Shoulder discomfort can be caused by a variety of diseases and situations. Rotator cuff tendinitis is the most common cause.

Tendon swelling characterizes this disorder. Impingement syndrome, in which the rotator cuff becomes trapped between the acromion (the region of the scapula that surrounds the ball) and humeral head, is another reason for shoulder discomfort (the ball portion of the humerus).

Shoulder discomfort can occasionally be brought on by an injury to another bodily region, usually the neck or biceps. Referred pain is the term for this. Usually, moving your shoulder does not make referred discomfort worse.

Shoulder discomfort might also result from:

  • Inflammation, torn rotator cuff, enlarged bursa sacs, bone spurs and torn cartilage (bony projections that develop along the edges of bones)
  • Pinched shattered arm bone, shoulder, or neck nerve, frozen shoulder, dislocated shoulder, or damage from overuse or repetitive usage
  • Spine-cord harm
  • Chest pain

How to check if you have Shoulder Pain?

You can often address your shoulder discomfort without seeing a doctor unless you have suffered a catastrophic injury or have abrupt, constant pain.

You should consult your doctor or a physiotherapist if, after two weeks of self-care, you feel the discomfort is not getting any better.

Please see a doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  •  You have excruciating pain in both shoulders
  • You have thigh discomfort, a fever, or other symptoms of illness.

These could be symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica, which requires immediate medical attention.

If you have a fever, difficulty moving your shoulder, persistent bruising, heat and discomfort around the joint, or pain that lasts more than a few weeks after trying home remedies, you should see a doctor.

Call a doctor right away if your shoulder discomfort is unexpected and unrelated to an incident. That could indicate a heart attack. Additional indicators of a heart attack are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest constriction
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating and discomfort in the jaw or neck
  • Also, if you hurt your shoulder and it is bleeding, and puffy, or you can see exposed tissue, get to an emergency centre right away.

Risk Factors

Female gender, advanced age, a history of a shoulder injury, surgery, diabetes, cardiorespiratory illnesses, cerebrovascular events, thyroid disease, and hemiplegia are all risk factors for adhesive capsulitis.


These are the indications and symptoms of shoulder pain:

  • Redness or warmth in your shoulder
  • Aches in the back, arms, or neck
  • You move your arm and hear a popping, clicking, or grinding sound.
  • Stiffness and weakened muscles
  • You have a small range of motion


It is preferable to continue with your regular activities as much as you can, but moderation is key. It could be necessary for you to pace yourself more slowly than normal and attempt to add a little more each day.

You can perform some chores a little bit differently to prevent shoulder pain.

  • At home, employ brief sweeping motions while keeping your upper body erect and the Hoover close to your torso.
  • Make sure the ironing board is at waist level and only iron essentials.
  • To transport your purchases, use a cart or a backpack.
  • Instead, you might hold one bag in each hand while splitting the weight between the two. Use bags with long straps instead, and cross them over your body from shoulder to hip when carrying them. Spreading out the weight of what you wish to carry is the key.
  • Get assistance from your car-owning pals by having them add any heavy items to their shopping list.
  • When shopping for large or heavy items, choose a delivery service.
  • Spend as little time as possible sitting down and staring down at tablets or phones. To avoid neck strain, place a stand on a table.
  • Give yourself plenty of time and ask for assistance if you need to perform chores that require lifting your arms or sweeping motions.
  • Try to vary chores and postures frequently and take a lot of pauses.

At work

  • While you are standing or sitting, try to keep your posture straight. Keep your neck from being held in a fixed or twisted posture.
  • Try to get up and walk about sometimes if you sit or stand at a workplace, such as a desk or a workbench. 
  • To prevent your shoulders and neck from becoming stiff and uncomfortable, try to gently move them through their whole range of motion on a frequent basis.
  • Keep the keyboard and display in front of you when using a computer so you do not have to turn your head or move your body. Do not make yourself reach for the mouse; keep it close at hand.
  • You could also find it easier to maintain a comfortable working position if you have a nice chair that supports you well and can be adjusted to your requirements. Your manager or an occupational health expert might be able to assist you with this.
  • Avoid placing your shoulder near your head when using the phone. Use a phone headset if you talk on the phone a lot.
  • Any physical labour that aches while you are performing it should be avoided.
  • You should be able to get assistance from your line manager or the human resources division. 


You may treat your shoulder discomfort in a number of different ways:


Mild painkillers like paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen pills and gels, are helpful.

You should be able to get sound advice from a chemist on what could work best for your problem. 

Cold or heat treatment

If your shoulder hurts after a small accident or if it seems warmer to the touch on one side than the other, applying an ice pack could be beneficial.

To protect your skin, use a bag of frozen peas covered in a wet towel. It should only be left in place for 20 minutes.

Most other forms of shoulder discomfort can be relieved with heat packs, especially if your muscles are stiff and aching.

Reusable heat pads are sold at chemists' and sporting goods stores. Instead, you might apply a hot water bottle or microwaveable wheat bag wrapped in something dry, such as a towel, to the uncomfortable region for up to 20 minutes.

Poor posture or working practises, including slouching at your desk, can exacerbate shoulder issues.

Try the following advice:

  • Try to avoid leaning forward or resting your arms excessively when seated.
  • Particularly if any of the discomforts is coming from your neck, try to relax your shoulders and allow your arms to drop by your sides rather than grasping them hard.
  • Alternate positions frequently.
  • Put your back straight and sit.
  • To correct your upper body posture, support your lower back using a pillow, cushion, or lumbar-supporting chair.
  • If your arm is painful, place a cushion or pillow on your lap to support and comfort it.
  • Practice holding your shoulder blades down and back in a mirror. Concentrate on your shoulder blades, maintain your chest motionless, and visualise drawing your shoulder blades back and down near one another.

Try these if your shoulder hurts when you are lying down:

  • A pillow under your neck, a folded cushion supporting your troublesome arm in front of your torso, and a pillow behind your back to stop yourself when you are lying on your good side.
  • If you prefer to sleep on your back, roll onto your painful side while supporting yourself with one or two pillows under your sore arm.

Exercise and sleep

Even if you do not feel like you can accomplish much, it is still crucial to be active. A healthy mix between rest and activity should help you prevent shoulder pain.

Consider avoiding actions that cause severe pain. It is important to attempt to avoid motions like this as much as you can until the pain subsides since raising your arm over your shoulder or holding it away from your body can be quite unpleasant.

Some at-home remedies include applying an elastic bandage to the region to minimise swelling and using over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to aid with pain relief and inflammation.

Easy shoulder exercises can aid in rotator cuff tendon and muscle stretching and strengthening. You can learn how to do things correctly from a physical therapist or occupational therapist.

Use ice for 15 minutes after working out if you have already experienced shoulder problems to avoid further injuries.

Simple range-of-motion exercises should be done daily after suffering from bursitis or tendinitis to prevent the development of a frozen shoulder.

Complications of Shoulder Pain

If you just had a serious accident and your shoulder is extremely painful, swollen, bruised, or bleeding, visit the emergency department at the hospital.

Seek medical assistance, if any of the following apply to you:

  • Fever, oedema, or redness together with shoulder aches
  • Shoulder mobility issues
  • Even after therapy, pain persists for more than 2 to 4 weeks
  • A shoulder that is swollen
  • Skin tone around the shoulder region is either red or blue.


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Page last reviewed: Apr 25, 2023

Next review due: Apr 25, 2025

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