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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

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

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.

  • Arthritis

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.

Mature man in gray suit holds his shoulder in pain while working in an office.

Shoulder Pain Relief

If you live with shoulder pain, your shoulder physician will uncover the cause and determine the best plan to give you shoulder pain relief. In many cases, conservative treatments can reduce inflammation and get you back to normal activities. These treatment options include:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

Surgical treatment may be necessary if your pain does not respond to other treatments, or if the damage is severe. A full or partial joint replacement may also be necessary if conservative treatments do not work.

To determine the source of your pain and the best path toward shoulder pain relief, you can expect:

  • A full review of your medical history, including your current symptoms, limitations, and past injuries
  • Consideration of treatments that have already been tried, including prior surgeries
  • A medical exam to assess the physical condition of your shoulder and check your range of motion, instability, and strength or weakness
  • Diagnostic imaging tests, including X-rays and MRI

Based on the results of these evaluations, your doctor will work with you to evaluate treatment options and determine the best course of action.

Emerge Ortho—Triangle Region Can Help You Find Shoulder Pain Relief

All EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region’s orthopedic specialists put their extensive clinical experience and training to work for every patient. We are known throughout the region for this expertise and sophisticated, patient-centered care.

If you are looking for shoulder pain relief and want to discuss treatment options, schedule a consultation with one of our providers.

Find a Shoulder Specialist.