Shoulder pain can be debilitating, making even simple activities a challenge. As many as 26% of adults in the U.S. are living with shoulder pain that disrupts their daily lives, but it does not have to be that way. Shoulder pain relief is possible and starts with identifying the source of pain.
Your shoulder has three bones: the upper arm (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). Your arm bone fits into a socket in your shoulder blade and is supported by muscles and tendons. Known as the rotator cuff, this tissue keeps your arm bone attached to the shoulder blade.
Rotator cuff injury is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain. However, the shoulder bones can also fracture, and wear and tear can lead to arthritis, inflamed or torn tendons (also known as tendinitis or bursitis), and painful shoulder instability.
The skilled physicians at EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region are committed to helping patients live pain-free with as much joint mobility as possible. Our fellowship-trained shoulder specialists work with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that focus on providing shoulder pain relief to patients across North Carolina. We want every patient to Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
The Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain
The rotator cuff is usually the source of shoulder pain. Some of the common rotator cuff injuries include:
- Tendon Tears
Overuse, degeneration from age and wear and tear, or a sudden injury can cause the rotator cuff to tear, or detach from the bone. Sometimes the tear is partial. Or, it can be a full tear, where the tendon completely separates.
Tendinitis refers to inflammation in the tendons, either the rotator cuff or the bicep tendon. It can be acute, brought on by overuse or repetitive action, or chronic, due to arthritis or age-related wear and tear.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa—fluid-filled sacs—that provide a cushion between the tendons and the bones. Overuse or repetitive activity can cause irritation and painful inflammation.
An inflamed or torn rotator cuff is not the only cause of shoulder joint pain. Other possibilities include:
- Shoulder Impingement
If the top of the shoulder blade puts pressure on the soft tissue, the bursa and tendons in the rotator cuff can become inflamed. This makes it painful to lift your arm and limits movement.
- Fractured Shoulder Bones
An accident, hard fall, or sports injury can cause any of the shoulder bones to fracture.
- Shoulder Instability
If an injury or overuse pushes the upper arm bone out of the socket, it causes a painful dislocation. Over time, weak or torn tendons, ligaments, and muscles can cause chronic dislocations.
Most shoulder arthritis is osteoarthritis, caused by age and wear and tear on the joint. Swelling, pain, and stiffness worsen over time. Sometimes, the tendency to “protect” the shoulder by not using it normally can actually worsen the pain.