Shoulder Joint Pain Causes and Treatments

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Struggling with shoulder pain? Here’s some information on what may be causing it and how to defeat the dull ache.

The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. The shoulder is made up of a group of four muscles and their tendons, called the rotator cuff, which gives the shoulder its wide range of movement. However, mobility has its price, it can lead to increasing problems with instability or impingement of the soft tissue or bony structures in your shoulder, resulting in pain.

Most shoulder problems only affect a small area and should last a relatively short time, but what is it that cases shoulder joint pain? And how can we treat it? In this article we look at treatments for shoulder joint pain and how to avoid it happening in the future. Woman suffering with shoulder pain

What is Shoulder Joint Pain?

There are several possible causes of shoulder joint pain. Your shoulder is made up of three bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula) and your collarbone (clavicle).

The head of the upper bone fits into a rounded socket in the shoulder blade and a combination of muscles and tendons keeps your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. These tissues are called the rotator cuff. They cover the head of your upper arm bone and are what attach it to your shoulder blade.

Most shoulder problems only affect a small area and should only last a short time. Shoulder joint pain may arise from the joint itself or from any of the many muscles, ligaments or tendons surrounding the shoulder.

What Causes Shoulder Joint Pain?

The shoulder joint gets dislocated more often than any other joint in the body. The way in which you use your shoulders day-to-day or playing sports can lead to tears and other long-term injuries.

The most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become trapped under the bony area in the shoulder, resulting in the tendons becoming inflamed or damaged. Swelling, damage, or bone changes around the rotator cuff can cause shoulder pain. Here are just a few common shoulder joint pain causes:

Dislocation/Broken Bone

The shoulder is one of the easiest joints to dislocate because of the ball joint in your upper arm which sits in a very shallow socket. If your shoulder is pulled back too hard or rotated too far, the top of your arm might pop out of the socket. There will be pain and weakness in the shoulder, and you might suffer with swelling, numbness and bruising. You may sometimes feel very sudden pain, and find it difficult to move your arm. A dislocated shoulder usually takes between 12 to 16 weeks to heal after the shoulder has been put back into place.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as Adhesive Capsulitis, is when the shoulder is painful and stiff for months. It is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint. This condition limits how much your joint will move. The signs and symptoms typically begin gradually and worsen over time. Frozen shoulder does usually resolve itself over the course of a few years and can be treated with shoulder exercises and painkillers.


Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in any joint. In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other, similar conditions that affect the joints. There are many types of arthritis, the most common type is osteoarthritis. Symptoms usually include swelling, pain, and stiffness.

ImpingementShoulder x-ray image

Shoulder impingement is a very common cause of shoulder pain where a tendon, inside your shoulder, rubs or catches on nearby tissue and bone as you lift your arm. Impingement affects the rotator cuff tendon, which is the rubbery tissue that connects the muscles around your shoulder joint to the top of your arm. It can cause swelling and pain.

An impinging shoulder will often improve in a few weeks or months with the right type of shoulder exercises, but it can occasionally be an ongoing problem.

Ruptured tendon

Tendonitis, also known as a ruptured tendon, is when tendons swell after a tendon injury. Tendonitis of your shoulder is an inflammation of your rotator cuff or biceps tendon. The condition causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. Your injury may range from mild inflammation to severe inflammation of most of your rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it is also called rotator cuff tendonitis.

The following symptoms are the most common of shoulder tendonitis: inability to hold your arm in certain positions and pain or tenderness in your shoulder. The guidance on how to treat tendonitis yourself is to make sure you rest, ice and support the tendon by wrapping an elastic bandage around the area.

How to Treat Shoulder Pain

There are several ways you can help your shoulder pain at home with a few days rest and ice. You can bandage it to hold it in place if necessary, and elevate it above the heart. It can take 6 months or longer to recover from shoulder joint pain.

Make sure to stay active and gently move the shoulder, as well as trying shoulder exercises for 6 to 8 weeks to stop any pain returning. Always try to stand up straight with your shoulders down and back, or try sitting with a cushion behind your lower back.

If your pain is causing issues which are effecting your ability to do daily tasks, try to use pain relief so that you can keep moving, alternatively, heat or cold packs are a good alternative.

How to Avoid Future Shoulder Pain?Seeing doctor for Shoulder pain

In everyday life your shoulders get a real workout, they move every time you do. From picking something up to grabbing something off of the top shelf, all these movements are due to having healthy shoulder movements with a great range of motion.

Shoulder joint pain can often be fixed without the need for surgery. Always make sure to listen to your body, if you shoulder is sore after any activity, don’t simply ignore the feeling, this could just make things worse. Apart from taking preventative measures to ensure that you’re not straining your shoulder, your diet also plays a role because it helps maintain strong muscles, bones and joints.

Deficiencies of certain nutrients can make it more likely for you to develop neck and shoulder pain. Understanding the role various vitamins play in joint pain can help prevent future shoulder joint pain. Always consult a trusted healthcare professional when taking vitamin supplements as an excess intake amount of certain vitamins can have negative side effects.

Now you know more about what causes shoulder joint pain and how to treat that aching pain and you want to know more about what causes joint stiffness, then read our article on what causes joint stiffness and what treatment is there, next.



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