Why Does My Shoulder Hurt?

Shoulder | | Return|

The shoulder joint is the most flexible joint in our body. When your shoulder starts to feel pain, it hampers your everyday activities; from brushing hair to reaching up into the closet.

Shoulder pain can occur due to muscle tears, osteoarthritis, tendonitis or instability. The shoulder joint is a complex joint and consists of 3 main bones- Humerus, Scapula and Clavicle. Ligaments and tendons keep the joint in place and help in the proper range of motion.

To best understand the cause of shoulder pain, it is easier to explore the possibilities by zeroing in on what part of the shoulder is experiencing pain.

Pain On The Outer Part Of The Shoulder


This can occur due to the following conditions-

Rotator Cuff Problems

Three main types of rotator cuff problems are bursitis, tendonitis, and rotator cuff tear. Bursitis and tendonitis occur due to inflammation of the bursa (fluid-filled sac) and tendons (it connects shoulder muscles to upper arm bone) respectively. Rotator cuff tears occur when tendons get separated from the bone.

These conditions cause pain mainly while reaching out or throwing. The pain can get worsened at night. The range of motion gets decreased and shoulder often feels stiff.

Frozen Shoulder

It is a common condition that leads to joint stiffness, pain or discomfort while reaching behind your back or head. It is also called adhesive capsulitis. The most common cause of frozen shoulder is rotator cuff tendonitis. In this condition, there is a loss of both active and passive range of motion.

Calcific Tendonitis

This happens due to the deposition of calcium crystals within a tendon. It leads to gradual shoulder pain that increases at night and with overhead movements. Usually, the symptoms may resolve within 3 to 6 months, but few people may require treatment.

Pain In Front Of The Shoulder


This most commonly occurs due to conditions related to biceps tendon; which attaches deep inside the shoulder. It can include:

Bicep Tendonitis

People with this condition usually develop gradual pain in front of the shoulder that moves down to the upper arm. The pain usually is worse with repetitive lifting or overhead activities.

Bicep Tendon Rupture

This is a serious condition in which the bicep muscle breaks free near the joint. There is a sudden “pop” sound at the shoulder joint along with acute pain, swelling and the formation of a lump.

SLAP Tears

This is a specific type of tear which occurs due to falling with an outstretched hand. It is commonly seen among athletes who throw overhead like baseball pitchers. It leads to deep shoulder pain and popping sound with movement.

Shoulder Osteoarthritis

In this condition, the person experiences shoulder pain along with stiffness. There is usually a loss of range of motion. It may be preceded by an injury to neck, arm or shoulder.

Pain At The Top Of The Shoulder


Conditions which can cause pain in the top of the shoulder are:

AC Separation

This is also called as Shoulder Separation. It happens when a person falls right onto their shoulder causing injury to the ligaments that surround the joint. Swelling may appear above the shoulder due to the separation of the shoulder blade.

Distal Clavicle Osteolysis

This is an uncommon condition that leads to sharp pain at the end of the collarbone. It is mostly seen among weightlifters.

Pain All Over The Shoulder


Conditions leading to pain all over the shoulder joint may include:

Shoulder Instability

This can happen due to an injury or overuse. Symptoms include severe pain and the feeling as if the shoulder will pop out.

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is an injury in which the top of the arm bone becomes disconnected from the scapula. The normal ligaments that stabilize the shoulder may get damaged and the shoulder may pop out of the joint.

When Should I See A Doctor If I Have Shoulder Pain?


You should consult an orthopedic doctor if you have symptoms like:

  • Incapability to carry objects or use the arm.
  • Shoulder pain that increases at night.
  • Persistent or sharp shoulder pain.
  • Inability to raise the arm.
  • Deformity of the joint due to an injury.
  • Swelling around the joint.
  • Reduced range of motion of shoulder joint.
If you are experiencing pain in your hip, knees, shoulders or feet in Boise, Idaho, contact Boise's top orthopedic Suregon, Dr. Michael Gustavel.


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